Tue | Jul 23, 2024

No ban on corporal punishment in homes, clarifies education minister

Published:Monday | May 27, 2024 | 3:37 PM
In January 2024, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced at an event at Manchester High School that "a total ban" on corporal punishment was among the recommendations of the National Violence Prevention Commission. 

Education Minister Fayval Williams says "no decision" has been made to ban corporal punishment in homes, just days after Justice Minister Delroy Chuck's announcement that the Government plans to outlaw parental beatings.

"We [Government] have done so in the schools and we want to do it in the homes, because it is wrong," said Chuck, the justice minister, on May 22. 

However, in a statement Monday afternoon, Williams made it clear that "the Cabinet has not taken a decision to ban corporal punishment".

She said the Holness administration is "deeply committed to finding effective solutions to the issue of violence in our country", according to the statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). 

Williams said the Government is working with parents through the National Parenting Support Commission to promote positive parenting practices. 

There was no reference to Chuck's comments except where it stated that the statement was being issued "in light of recent discussions in the public domain". 

In January, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced at an event at Manchester High School that "a total ban" on corporal punishment was among the recommendations of the National Violence Prevention Commission. 

“That is going to be a controversial one, but I think that the society is at the point now where it must confront itself on how it uses violence as a means of disciplining children, because that's what corporal punishment is. It is a violation of the personhood of the child,” Holness said on January 12. 

READ: Violence Prevention Commission recommends total ban on corporal punishment

Today's OPM said the commission's report "will be a key driver to inform national conversation". 

"The administration respects and acknowledges the importance of engaging a wide cross-section of stakeholders, including our families and our churches on issues concerning efforts to stem violence against children," it said, adding that the administration "takes the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to eliminating violence in our society, particularly against our children". 

Concerns of government overreach have been triggered by Chuck's comments last week at the Ministry of Justice's Child Diversion Forum at the Spanish Court Hotel in recognition of May as Child Month. 

READ: Chuck: Law coming to ban corporal punishment in homes

"We must not use straps and whips and belts, especially belt buckles, to beat any child. 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 up [is wrong], and I know it's difficult for parents to really challenge their children to be on the right path, but I dare say that corporal punishment rarely works,” he said. 

The justice minister noted that children have a right to be protected from any form of violent behaviour, whether it comes from a teacher, a parent or any other child.

His comments have drawn criticism from some parents and lobby groups, including the Association of Christian Communicators and Media (ACCM). 

“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 on Sunday. 

READ: Gov't stance on corporal punishment 'a direct overreach', says Christian group

The group 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.

In 2017, the Prime Minister in his Budget debate announced that the Government would amend the Education Act to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in schools.

But that is yet to happen.

Successive administrations have feared the political fallout from criminalising a notorious cultural practice strongly supported by some religious and parent lobbies. 

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