Summary: Summary of the plenary session of day 2 of
the Regional consultation on violence against
children taking place in Bangkok from 14 - 16
Thematic presentations: Corporal punishment of children, review of laws,
attitudes and practices in the region, by Natsu Nogami, Save the Children
This presentation was based on a rights-based desk review undertaken
by the Save the Children Sweden in the region. Nogami looked at what the
consequences of continuing to use and excuse corporal punishment would
be, but started by looking why adults hit children in the first place. Adults
hit because they can, children are the smallest, the only people it is legal
to hit. Recognition that it is wrong is a new concept, however their dignity
must be recognised, and they must be recognised as human beings in the
their own right.
Not being subjected to corporal punishment is therefore a human rights
issues: it violates human dignity, the right to protection from violence,
equality, etc. However it is happening and it is the main form of violence
that is legally accepted.
Consequences of not responding: if violence continues, it sends two
1. violence is acceptable
2. the strong are allowed to hit the weak
Save the Children’s research:
Desk review of 19 countries, comparative primary research. The aim was to
get to know the issue, develop thorough understanding, find ways of
eliminating it and contributing to the study. Legal information from these
countries was thus collected and analysed on the following: violence in the
home and the families, in schools (informal and formal), children outside
family care, responsibility of states, including foster, in conflict with the law,
on the streets, in workplaces.
From the results, they determined that they need to focus on the following:
- Current attitudes and practices – need to be changed, which also means:
- Legal abolition of corporal punishment;
- which would then be followed by successful implementation of abolition;
- while keeping in mind that changing attitudes is essential for all
Reasonable use of corporal punishment is legal, however, what is seen
as ‘reasonable’ depends on people’s values and experiences. So not only
is it allowed, but it is also accepted, encouraged, and favoured.
She also highlighted some areas that need particular attention such
outside of family care. There is little information available, for instance,
working children are not protected, there is little legal provision, little
information, girl domestic workers is one such area where data seems to
suggests violence is widespread.
What should we do?
- Public education, research – rights based approach
- advocacy based on the above
- all forms of corporal punishment must be banned.
Who is responsible?
Governments, civil society; to motivate and support governments, and
individuals, including adults and children.
Judith Ennew, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge: Family
life without corporal punishment in East Asia and Pacific
Judith Ennew presented the findings of research that was undertaken in
collaboration with Save the Sweden East Asia and Pacific regional office. In
her presentation, she emphasised the positive and looked at solutions for
ending violence within the family. The findings, published as a book is also
in response to the request for submissions from the secretariat for the UN
Ennew started her presentation by asking whether humans are violent or
peaceful, referring to the belief by some that human beings cannot help to
be violent, a belief she says, is popular with media (war, for instance, is
inevitable and makes for a better story), peace must be enforced, and
children have aggression naturally.
86, UNESCO, 20 scientist, condemning the pessimism of the apes’ theory
However according to her there are peaceful peoples; small scale societies
exist, where people’s way of life is based on cooperation not competition
and children are raised in non violent environments. Child rearing practices
in such societies are practices where children are supported by parents,
through physical language, they are taught to fear and avoid violence.
There are no rules or control, but children learn to respect other’s feelings,
take responsibility, with consequences of actions, but these consequences
are not physical punishment, but children are reasoned.
There are also examples of such practices in larger scales society, such as
in Bali and Java. These societies are hierarchical, and are societies where
people seek harmony, respect and politeness, and use the language of
bodies to use the energy humans have positively (as opposed to
violently). Children thus have few models of violence to learn from, body
control is one practice used, for instance through the use of dance.
These examples are based on the great traditions of the region:
Peacefulness, inner tranquility, self control and balance.
What about in complex societies?
Simple proposition: problem is not that society is complex, but child rearing
has wrong goal. Our priorities have changed, we live in a competitive
world. But we must choose whether we want to develop brain power or
peace power? Mindfulness or brainfulness. We should all believe that a
successful child is a child that becomes a responsible member of society.
Implications are rights based. Parents share responsibility to understand
that physical punishment is not necessary. For us, who work in this area,
we must not assume that is inevitable. Our goal to achieve a culture of
peace. And peace is a human right, it is not an ideal. Actions should be
holistic, committed and long term. And it is essential to have advocacy and
Finally Ennew talked about the role of media, which is a key role because
they promote violence, but they should be promoting peace, and the
media have the means to do this. And this would not violate the freedom
of expression, as that right should also be balanced with children’s rights
as expressed in Articles 17 and 29 of the UNCRC.
Violence in the home and family, Edwina Kotoisuva, Fiji Crisis Centre
Kotoisuva illustrated her way of talking about violence with a specific
example, which highlighted the fact that violence is an act of power and
aggression and happens in many forms. She chose to talk about violence
in relation to violence against women, as both are intrinsically linked.
Groups in the Pacific are reacting and working on this issue, however she
explained that there is little substantive research in the region. What
exists, however, is information on violence in intimate relations.
She gave some statistics on some countries in the region, however,
emphasised that existing data cannot be compared within the region, but
it does give organisations scope for reacting. From the findings, there are
several emerging issues, including one often overlooked which is children
abusing other children, teenagers abusing young. Other relevant issues
for the region are children who are left in the care of extended family,
often with the hope of offering them a better chance. However this often
places them at high risk of different types of abuse. Other issues are
interpretations of religion and culture that are sometimes used to justify
the use of violence and this can be difficult to challenge
Kotoisuva then talked about some initiatives they have undertaken
recently in the region. As fundamental principles in their work, they use
human rights frameworks to increase gender equality and challenge
cultural practices. For instance, they have developed advocacy training for
male groups, with the aim of men advocating for women’s rights. They
believe that it is important for men to address their own behaviour
towards violence before they can advocate on behalf of women. It is also
about making men’s groups accountable to women and children’s groups.
Such training programmes have also been undertaken with police force,
and military. The aim is to try to change behaviour in male dominated
areas; by address their masculinity, they can become advocates for
Behavioural change is therefore essential to reach a point where
individuals recognise the fact that other members of the family are equal.
This also sets a role model for children. Of course, she reminded us, it is
not just men who are perpetrators of violence, women too use violence
against children, this has been documented in areas such as care
institutions where women work.
In terms of sexual violence in the family, it is essential to break taboos,
where one must understand the dynamics of sexual abuse, and “we must
name it before we can move forward.” Furthermore, processes for
reporting must be improved. For instance, when children are being
interviewed in police stations and in hospitals, the right environment
should be created so as not to intimidate them. In the homes they are
sent to, their carers need to know how to treat them. During trials,
prosecution should know how to treat them appropriately, they should not
be alienated once they are back in society, and they must receive justice
after they have reported their case.
She concluded by saying that important initiatives are taking place by
children’s coordinating committees in Fiji and Vanuatu, for instance, but
these must also be driven by ministries that must allocate adequate
resources and set up human rights commissions.