FLOGGING is “deeply harmful” to the development of a child and should never be used as a form of discipline, Dr Everold Hosein, senior Communication adviser-consultant at the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, has said.
Hosein, who was in Trinidad last week, was commenting on a recent video that went viral on Facebook, showing a 12-year-old girl being beaten with a belt by her mother.
The girl was being disciplined after posting inappropriate pictures of herself on the social media site.
The girl’s mother, Helen Bartlett, said she had frustrated all other disciplinary methods before resorting to the public beating.
Police have since been looking into whether Bartlett should be pursued by the law, however there are no laws against corporal punishment by parents.
Hosein said last week it is time to let go of the notion that ‘licks’ was an acceptable and harmless form of discipline.
“I have done considerable work with UNICEF on reducing violence against children, and particularly the use of physical violence and psychological violence to maintain discipline in the classroom,” Hosein said.
“From the UNICEF/UN Right of the Child perspective, any violence against a child –physically, a slap on the bottom, or psychologically, shouting an insult – is a gross infringement on the rights of the child. In addition, it is psychologically and profoundly damaging.”
Hosein said it was “insensitive and unkind” to have struck the child and while the rage of the parent might be understandable, adults must contain their rage.
“Yes, we have heard the phrase that ‘We hit you because we love you’. We need to change that to: we hug you because we love you,” Hosein said, adding :
“And there is the usual statement: ‘Hey look at me, I was beaten and I turn out OK’. And my response: ‘Imagine how fantastic you would have become were you not beaten’.”
Hosein said it was difficult, having not spoken with the child, to determine the reasons behind her decision to post inappropriate pictures of herself, however, it could have been a call for attention.
“When was the last time her parents hugged her and said ‘We love you’?,” Hosein said.
“And when she posted her pictures, did anyone embrace her, hug her, and say ‘let’s talk’?”
Hosein said there was a time when he himself thought it acceptable to slap a child gently on the bottom or grab a child’s neck when administering discipline but has now accepted that “any violence is bad” and “violence breeds violence”.
“Globally we are working on offering teachers an alternative to physical violence as a way to maintain classroom discipline and order. And I do know teachers in Trinidad who are fantastic at maintaining discipline and order without resorting to the cane or stick or ruler. They should be the ones we follow,” said Hosein, who also serves as an Adjunct Professor at New York University.
Questions must be asked following incidents like these as to the child’s background, including whether there is a history of sexual abuse or whether the child was ever spoken to, gently and properly, about “sex, growing up, sexual feelings, dealing with those feelings, her body, her perception of her body and the link to sexual pleasure and why she developed a sense that this was the best way to give expression to her sexual charge”.
Responding to a statement recently by Member of Parliament for Arima, Rodger Samuel, that Trinidad and Tobago’s society is a “sexually charged” one, Hosein said:
“I would agree but so is every society, perhaps every individual. We are no more sexually charged than the Swedes or South Africans or Cambodians or Americans.
“The question is what do we do with our sexual charge? How do we display it, give expression to it? In the Caribbean we love to talk about sex in a risqué, flirtatious, frivolous way. But we are very reluctant to talk earnestly about sex with our partners. Very reluctant to talk to our children about sex. But we do love to put on display our sexual charge. Look at Carnival.”
Hosein said the child in the video is “no more sexually charged than any other 12-year old and every 12 year-old is sexually charged”. “
“It is so unfortunate that we seem so reluctant to engage young children about sex, when sexually thoughts are pummeling their developing brain,” Hosein said.
“It is such a pity that some of us think that talking to young children about sex will put sexual thoughts in their head, when these thoughts are already bouncing around furiously in that brain.”