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Push to ban corporal reprimand in homes

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 18 – A group of international organisations that advocate for the protection of children’s rights is now calling for an amendment of the Children’s Act to ban use of corporal punishment in homes.  

Led by Save the Child-Sweden, the NGOs urged for the repeal of the clause advocating the use of reasonable corporal punishment “because the section is ambiguous”.

Regional Director Hans Ridemark said that although Kenya had made great progress through the Children’s Act in 2001, incidences of children being subjected to this form of violence still continue being reported throughout the country.

“The first purpose of what we are doing is to require states to recognise and realise children’s rights by quickly developing a clear and adequate framework or foundation of legislation in which corporal punishment and other forms of cruel or degrading punishment are clearly prohibited,” he said.

A former independent expert of the UN Study on Violence Against Children Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said despite domesticating the Children Rights Convention in 2001, a section of teachers and parents still argue that there are cases where caning is the ultimate solution to child indiscipline.

“One of the main recommendation of the statute is the total prohibition of corporal punishment; the example that we mentioned here made us aware of legal existence of corporal punishment in some countries which is surreal and we must abandon this crisis,” he said.

Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children coordinator Peter Newell argued that there were other ways of disciplining children that don’t involve caning or humiliation.

“We have to be extremely careful how laws to prohibit corporal punishment in the home are implemented.  Prosecuting parents or even fining them is not going to help the children but equally its absolutely clear that the law must criminalise assault on children as much as it criminalises assaults on adults,” he said.

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Mr Newell argued there was need for positive non-violent relationships with children.

“Eliminating corporal punishment requires both clear ad explicit law reform and sustained public and parent education- about children’s right and the law, awareness-raising of the dangers of corporal punishment and promotion of positive, non-violent relationships with children,” he said.

At the same time, the Government appealed to children rights organisations operating in the country to submit their recommendations of amendments to be made in the Children’s Act.

Director of Children Department Ahmed Hussein said the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development and the Attorney-General were currently reviewing the Act in a bid to address contentious sections.

“It is evident that corporal punishment is a gross violation of children’s human rights. It is therefore evident that corporal punishment has been over taken by time.  Focus should be taken on alternative forms of caring for children and replicate best practices evident elsewhere,” Mr Hussein said.

“It is also incumbent upon all of us to identify urgently all the sections in our laws that allow for some sort of caning or corporal punishments so that the necessary action can be done.”

Some of the issues that are to be addressed include child protection system while under the courts, kinship adoption, insufficient officers of the department and also clarifying on the use of reasonable punishment as highlighted in the Act.

“Let’s also engage our churches and religious organisation because sometimes in those religious organisations beating is allowed and therefore we need – the way Bishop Desmond Tutu stands up against canning – to bring our churches, our sheikhs and other religious leaders to stand up against canning of children,” he said.

They were participating at a public forum under the theme: “Caning of Children: Is it in their Best Interest.”

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