TAIWAN, PROVINCE OF CHINA: Parliament passes law to ban corporal punishment in schools

The long-expected amendment to the Fundamental Law of Education to ban corporal punishment in schools was passed today, just two weeks after Taiwan [Province of China]’s launch of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children on 26 November 2006.

The new Article 8 Paragraph 2 says: “The State should protect students’ rights to learning, to education, to their physical integrity and their human dignity, and should protect them from any form of corporal punishment, which constitutes a physical and psychological violation.”

The new Article 15 says: Where a teacher’s right to professional autonomy or a student’s rights to learning, to education, to his or her physical integrity and human dignity is improperly or illegally violated by the school or by the educational authority, the Government should, pursuant to relevant laws and regulations, provide the victim or his/her statutory representative with effective and fair channels for remedies.”

International efforts to eliminate corporal punishment were introduced to Taiwan last year by the Humanistic Education Foundation (HEF). The amendment bill was first proposed to the Parliament in October 2005 after President Shui-Bian Chen’s and former premier Frank Hsieh’s declarations of their commitment to prohibiting corporal punishment by laws in response to the UN Study’s appeal in 2005 summer. The bill was altered in the committee review last December and underwent a partisan negotiation this May, and had been pending for several months until HEF organised the Taiwan launch of the UN Study’s report at which Peter Newell, member of the Study’s editorial group and Coordinator of Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, to illustrate the key message of the report and the violent nature of corporal punishment, and to appeal for equal rights for children.

Despite the fact that Taiwan was unable to join the nations that ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Newell told the audience that he hoped Taiwan "will take a lead in this region" on the issue of corporal punishment.

The launch was also the two-day International Seminar on Eliminating Corporal Punishment. On the second day, Joan Durrant (second from left in the picture), associate professor of Family Social Science, Manitoba University, Canada, presented the enlightening Swedish experience to the Taiwan public. Priscilla Lui (first from right) from Against Child Abuse, Hong Kong, also took HK’s experience as an example that banning school corporal punishment does not mean schools would be in chaos. Presentations by Dominique Pierre Plateau from Save the Children Sweden and by Jargal Chuluuntulga from Save the Children UK in Mongolia further demonstrated the international effort to end corporal punishment.

During the seminar, Ying Shih, Executive Director of HEF, said that HEF's worked towards raising awareness about corporal punishment. Related laws will need to be amended to reach this goal. Pi-Hsia Huang, Director of the Children’s Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior (authority of children’s rights and protection in Taiwan), attended the launch and expressed that she shared the view of Peter Newell and the other international children’s right workers. about the legal reforms.

This event received high media coverage, and the Taiwan Parliament passed the bill soon afterwards. The new law (Fundamental Law of Education) is expected to come into effect by the end of December.

This new law is applicable to all educational institutes, including all public and private schools and kindergartens, universities, and all kinds of cram schools, protecting 5.3 million students. Upon knowing this news, some students were excited, and others have expressed concerns about whether it will be implemented. To ensure its implementation, it has been agreed that the Ministry of Education should convene with the National Teachers’ Association to draft “Notes for School Discipline and Counseling” within six months after this amendment bill is passed, and should urge the local Educational Bureaux to make relevant regulations for schools.

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