ISLAMABAD: In a major victory for child rights activists, a bill against the corporal punishment of children in Islamabad was passed on Tuesday in the National Assembly.
The ICT Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, a private member bill, was presented by PML-N MPA Mehnaz Akbar Aziz. An amendment in the bill presented by the government was also passed.
According to Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, with the amendment proposed by the government, it would now be possible for complainants to approach court against children’s corporal punishment.
“The previous version of bill stated that complaints must be made to the government committee formed for the purpose,” she said. The human rights minister said now the court could directly be approached.
Founder of the Zindagi Trust foundation, a non-governmental organisation that works for the education of working children, Shehzad Roy spoke to Geo News after the passing of the bill to share his joy over the development. He thanked Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah who had suspended Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code in 2019 which allowed for the use of corporal punishment by parents, guardians and teachers “in good faith for the benefit”.
Roy said Zindagi Trust had petitioned for Section 89 to be abolished. “I also wish to thank Shireen Mazari who had personally appeared in court [...] she herself had a bill on corporal punishment which could not progress in parliament due to some technicalities.”
Roy said teachers would have to be taught how to manage children without the use of violence. He said it was natural for teachers to feel frustrated when there were about a 100 children in one class, adding there should not be more than 30 in a class.
With the law having been passed against corporal punishments, Roy said now mass awareness campaigns needed to be run, to communicate how children could be managed without resorting to physical violence.
According to a press release by Zindagi Trust, Sindh passed their Prohibition of Corporal Punishment in 2017, but there were still no rules of implementation developed and communicated, nor any awareness campaign launched in schools.
The bill now prohibits violence against children has defined what constitutes as a minor. Everyone under the age of 18 will be included in the definition of children, it states. Violence against children in all educational institutions and workplaces will be prohibited, the bill states.
According to the bill, corporal punishment refers to punishment that involves the use of physical force. It also details the forms of violence used against children that will be considered illegal henceforth.
Injury of any kind will be considered corporal punishment, says the bill. Slapping children, whipping them, beating them with sticks, shoes, wood or spoons is violence, according to the bill.
Shaking them, biting them, grabbing them by the hair, or pulling their ears is violence, the bill adds. Keeping children in painful situations is torture, as is pouring boiling water on them. Child abuse, humiliation, defamation, intimidation and terrorising of children are all punishable, says the bill.
Violence against children will lead to demotion, suspension, dismissal, or forced retirement, it warns. The perpetrator of child abuse will not be eligible for a job in the future, according to the bill.
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