Unicef urges corporal punishment ban, in light of Thaqif’s death

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KUALA LUMPUR: The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has joined in the nationwide grief over the death of 11-year-old Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi, saying the incident underlines the need to ban corporal punishment in schools.

“The loss of Mohamad Thaqif to his family, school and society is a stark reminder of the negative consequences of corporal punishment and violence as a form of discipline,” said spokesperson for Unicef in Malaysia, Marianne Clark-Hattingh.

She said there were more effective methods which are “non-violent” to discipline children.

“Positive discipline teaches a child right from wrong, and how to treat others without inflicting physical and emotional harm caused by caning, ridicule or shaming. It respects the dignity of the child.”

Thaqif died at 2.06pm yesterday at Hospital Sultan Ismail in Johor Bahru after being admitted a week earlier for injuries to his legs. He had allegedly been beaten by the assistant warden of the religious school he was attending.

Last Friday, doctors amputated his legs in a bid to prevent infection to tissues and blood cells in his body. He had also been due for further surgery to amputate his right arm.

The assistant warden was arrested last Saturday and has been remanded pending investigation into the case, which has now been reclassified from abuse to that of murder, according to police.

Marianne said today that corporal punishment “is cruel, inhuman and degrading”, adding that there was a misperception that physical punishment was the only way to instil discipline among children.

“There are consequences to our inaction. When children are caned and shamed, they are harmed by the acts of their teachers. The pain they feel in the present can cause physical and emotional scars for life.”

She said a meeting of child rights activists, which was hosted by the Malaysian government last year, had come to a consensus that violence during childhood would have a negative impact on a country’s social and economic development, and would burden its healthcare system.

Marianne also reminded Malaysia that it was a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), despite its reservations on the banning of “torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.