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Gov’t stance on corporal punishment ‘a direct overreach’, says Christian group

Published:Monday | May 27, 2024 | 12:12 AM

The Government’s move to ban corporal punishment in the home is being challenged by one Christian group which says the state is overreaching.

The group, the Association of Christian Communicators and Media (ACCM), said the Government’s focus should be placed on the establishment of a unit that focuses on rebuilding the family while helping parents cope with the challenges of child rearing in Jamaica.

“This effort to curtail longstanding and acceptable disciplinary tools available to parents is a direct overreach by the Government and can only be seen as an effort to replace the role of parents in the home,” ACCM said in a statement issued yesterday.

It said the Government’s position is of deep concern as the family remains the foremost and primary unit of socialisation, and the responsibility for the discipline of children must remain in and with the home.

The pushback follows recent pronouncements by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck indicating that the Government is seeking to introduce laws to prevent corporal punishment in homes.

The ACCM said while the abuse of children must never be condoned and that the long arm of the law must bring to justice any parent who abuses his or her child, slapping a child appropriately as part of disciplinary measures is not considered abuse.

Slapping wrong

Chuck said the slapping of children is wrong and that straps, whips, or belts must not be used to beat any child. He also said all forms of slapping must be pulled from acceptable disciplinary measures.

The minister said every parent must learn to scold the child, even to deprive the child of some form of activity or put them in the corner to stand.

Adding that corporal punishment rarely works, the minister said the Government is well advanced on a path to stop this practice.

According to the minister, the culture of beating children in schools has largely changed with legislation, strong enforcement, and the intervention of the education ministry across administrations. That shift began in the last 30 years, and Justice Minister Delroy Chuck is hoping it will soon filter into all homes islandwide.

The ACCM pointed to the high levels of indiscipline and violence in Jamaican schools, where the government has full control.

Failing system

It said this speaks to a failing system that needs to be urgently addressed, and effective measures must be put in place to prevent any more children from losing their lives while in Government care.

Further, the association said the absence of a unit that focuses on family and works actively to slow and halt the continued disintegration of the family structure within society could further increase indiscipline among Jamaican children.

It said unless the family is strengthened, celebrated, and encouraged to function as an effective and cohesive unit, all children are at risk, and the societal framework will continue to weaken.

The Christian group said rather than outlawing corporal punishment, efforts should be made to educate and encourage parents to use all alternative means of discipline.

“Parents have gotten younger in recent years, and in their professional pursuits, many children are left to their own devices for extended periods. Families that subscribe to Christian values and are supported and empowered by specially designed programmes are positioned to have better outcomes in terms of the discipline and academic performance of their children,” said Dr Patience Alonge, head of the ACCM family and Gender subcommittee..

She added that every well-thinking Jamaican needs to be concerned about the announcement by Chuck.

editorial@gleanerjm.com