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Time to scrap corporal punishment

Jul 30,2019 - Last updated at Jul 30,2019

A timely colloquium, presided by Minister of Justice Bassam Talhouni, was held on Monday by the Association for the Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence and the Jordanian Association for Family Training and Guidance (Usrati) to address the issue of corporal punishment in general, and at home in particular.

Talhouni admitted right at the outset that this vexing and troubling subject is still a matter of public debate, with opinion divided between traditionalists, who tolerate a certain degree of physical punishment against their children, and the counter school of thought that calls for the full respect of international norms, especially the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came to force internationally in 1990 and became legally binding on Jordan after it was duly ratified in 1991.

There is no better start for discussing this subject than the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states very clearly that "childhood is entitled to a special care and assistance”. In the sixth preamble paragraph of this convention, it is also stipulated that every child "should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding".

Likewise in the ninth preamble paragraph, it is stated: "The child by reason of his [her] physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth."

Article 1 of the convention defines a child as "every human being below the age of 18 years". Throughout the convention, it is always expressed that the guidelines regarding a child’s treatment must be governed by a child’s “best interest”.

Article 7 of this convention stipulates "every child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality". More to the point, Article 19 states that a child shall be protected "from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation…” while in the care of parents.

Accordingly, the participants at the meeting need not go too far to determine whether physical punishment against children can be tolerated as long as they keep in mind international guidelines. Any attempt to justify the cruel treatment of children based on custom or tradition must, therefore, be rejected outright and without any degree of complacency.

Any existing legislation that says otherwise must be struck out as illegal and contrary to Jordan's international obligations.

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