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Ban the belt - PM wants law to stop the beating of children in schools, at home

Published:Tuesday | November 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell


If Prime Minister Andrew Holness has his way, Jamaica will join the 59 countries around the world that have banned corporal punishment.

Holness had previously indicated that he was planning to take legislation to Parliament to outlaw corporal punishment in schools and other state entities, but yesterday he went further.

Holness told his parliamentary colleagues that corporal punishment did not align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under the United Nations Development Programme.

"While it is not a consensus across the aisle or even a consensus within the political parties about banning corporal punishment totally in the country, I wish to declare that I am totally against corporal punishment," said Holness.

The prime minister said the time has come for Parliament to debate the controversial issue in an effort to "finally" declare an end to corporal punishment within public institutions and as a means of discipline available to parents.

He contended that the outlawing of corporal punishment would represent a positive step towards taking a stand against violence generally.

Holness said it would also send a powerful message about the State respecting the inviolability of the person, whether that person is a child or an adult.

"With our commitment to the SDGs, I don't see how we can maintain this aspect of our culture and claim that we want to advance as a modern, civilised society," said Holness.

Immediate support for the prime minister's position came from former education minister Ronald Thwaites, who told reporters that no human being should be subject to such abuse.

That position is shared by professor of child health and development in the Faculty of Medical Science at the University of the West Indies, Maureen Samms-Vaughn, who, last Thursday, told Gleaner editors and reporters that this is a direction which the country needs to move.

"No human being has the right to physically hurt another human being," said Samms-Vaughan.

"Remember what I said: We are not going to advance our human development as long as we beat our children. The research is very clear. Where there are high levels of violence against children, the society does not advance.

"Unless we take that stance, we are not going to advance to be a developed country," added Samms-Vaughan.