Corporal punishment is an official punishment for students’ misdeeds. It involves methodically striking the offender a particular number of times with open hand or an implement to inflict pain as a physical form of punishment for their misdemeanor. Implements used usually include rattan cane, wooden paddle or yardstick and mostly rulers. It is an immediate punishment usually uncensored by parents or higher school authorities which is why it has been under scrutiny for a long time now. While the punishment has been banned in a large number of countries many others are firm supporters of inflicting pain as retribution to instill discipline in students.
In India, corporal punishment is commonplace and is meted out to students for every act of indiscipline. It is entirely uncensored and is a cause for alarm as many incidents of corporal punishment turn into cases of violent physical abuse. This may be due to the fact that it is a usual practice which has been carried on over generations. The Delhi High Court in a ruling banned the use of corporal punishment in schools in the year 2000. It is also prohibited in all schools in the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 and The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules 2010 provides for its monitored implementation.
Though more than 50% of the states claim to implement the ban, its enforcement is, to say the least, lax. Physical forms of punishment are considered acceptable in most schools and even determined necessary to instill and maintain discipline among students. Studies conducted by institutions such as UNICEF and Plan International claim that almost 65% children were subjected to physical violence. Slapping and striking with a ruler, stick or stave have been deemed most common among other methods such as tying to a chair followed by severe beating and being forced to stand in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time.
Such punishments not only inflict physical pain but also register mentally. They cause extreme humiliation in some cases leading to psychological disorders. This becomes a major factor influencing non-attendance and drop-out rates. Studies have also revealed that children subjected to humiliating corporal punishments are more likely to indulge in physical violence later in personal life as well as their social dealings. Humiliation caused by such punishments lead to a lack of self-esteem which contributes to lower success in professional and personal endeavors. Such concerns should not be overlooked when the future of all these individuals is at stake. It is imperative to provide children subjected to physical violence with suitable counseling so that it may not affect their lives negatively. There is a glaring need to abolish this practice in its entirety and bring in new forms of punishment that do not harm students but encourage them to rectify their mistakes in a constructive manner.