An apology is necessary Editorial
Stabroek News
June 26, 2004

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Somebody should apologise to the children of Guyana for raising their hopes that thrashings were about to end and then dashing them. An apology must be said to those same children - and others - who stood on national television and mumbled about how they believed corporal punishment in schools should continue because they did not know better or dared not say otherwise. And then our policy-makers need to go back and start the process all over. But this time, they should truly put our children first and make beating them a crime in our statute books because that is what it is.

As one prominent local educator is fond of saying: "The reasons parents give for beating their children are the same reasons men give for beating their wives, i.e. because they love them; because they don't listen; or because they made them angry, among others." If we cannot put the lid on child beatings, then what makes us think we can make any headway with regard to domestic violence? Or is it that we do not want to?

If we put aside tradition and emotion and simply look at the facts, it is obvious that beatings never changed any child or person who was bent on taking the wrong path. Many, if not all, of the criminally-minded in Guyana today were beaten badly as children. Someone should conduct a survey.

However, it should be said that making beating a crime will not put an end to it. Like all the other crimes that are committed every day, for instance: robbery, fraud, murder, rape it will continue, because people will believe they stand a chance of not being caught. And like other crimes, maybe some will get away with it. But perhaps it will force those inclined to thrash children within an inch of their lives to think twice. Possibly, there will be a reduction in the severity of the thrashings. And just maybe, it will encourage parents to talk to their children more.

Yes, there are countries where beating children has been outlawed - like the US and Trinidad - and where it is claimed there is a problem with discipline as a result. But such claims take a very narrow view of the situation and do not take into account the ratio of indisciplined children to the entire child population of that country. Neither do they mention the millions of well-adjusted children who have benefited from the law. Nor do they take cognisance of these children's exposure to violence through their parents' relationships and through the media. And they ought to note that children are still beaten, sometimes brutally, in the US, even though the laws do not permit it.

Child beating in Guyana is cultural and traditional and as some say, even a traditional/religious phenomenon. But there comes a time when change, difficult as it is, is necessary. And then it demands a break with culture and tradition. It is time to start breaking the cycle of violence. It would be a loving thing to do for our children.