End le­galised vi­o­lence against chil­dren, says UWI pro­fes­sor

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Ryon Jones Staff Re­porter

PRO­FES­SOR OF child health and child de­vel­op­ment at the Uni­ver­sity of the West Indies, Mau­reen Samms-Vaughan, is plead­ing with the Ja­maican Gov­ern­ment to put a stop to the le­galised forms of vi­o­lence against chil­dren by ban­ning cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.

Chil­dren in 53 coun­tries are pro­tected by law from cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment in all set­tings, in­clud­ing their homes, with Swe­den be­ing the first to have out­lawed the act in 1979, and Samms-Vaughan be­lieves it is time Ja­maica fol­low suit.

“Any form of vi­o­lence against an adult is a charge­able of­fence, and we have stopped beat­ing pris­on­ers, but we are still beat­ing our chil­dren,” said Samms-Vaughan, who will be pre­sent­ing find­ings from the Global Re­port 2017: End­ing Vi­o­lence in Child­hood at Wed­nes­day’s launch of UNICEF’s re­port ti­tled A Fa­mil­iar Face – Vi­o­lence in the Lives of Chil­dren and Ado­les­cents.

“When the Par­lia­ment of Swe­den made that de­ci­sion, if they had put it to a pub­lic vote, it would not have hap­pened be­cause the so­ci­ety at the time wasn’t ready. But now, they don’t have the type of sit­u­a­tions that we have here where we see se­vere forms of vi­o­lence.”


Samms-Vaughan, who is also a de­vel­op­men­tal pae­di­a­tri­cian, said she has seen sev­eral chil­dren who have suf­fered cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment be­cause they have an un­di­ag­nosed de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­ity. She said it was, there­fore, up to the State to put laws in place to pro­tect them.

“I have seen so many chil­dren who have been beaten for learn­ing who have autism that has not been di­ag­nosed; chil­dren who have learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties that have not been di­ag­nosed,” said Samms-Vaughan.

“I said to a lit­tle boy in my clinic last week, ‘How do you like your new school?’ He said to me, ‘It is great. No­body beats me.’ He has an in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity and he was be­ing beaten be­cause of that.

“I try to say to teach­ers, no child wants to per­form poorly at school. So when a child is per­form­ing poorly, there has got to be a rea­son.”

Ac­cord­ing to Samms-Vaughn, more than 90 per cent of Ja­maican chil­dren ex­pe­ri­ence more than one form of vi­o­lence, with it hav­ing a greater ef­fect on boys who are more likely than girls to dis­play dis­rup­tive be­hav­iour.

“There is, how­ever, no dif­fer­ent re­sponse in ed­u­ca­tion; for both of them, their ed­u­ca­tion is

af­fected,” Samms-Vaughn pointed out. “The ed­u­ca­tion is not af­fected di­rectly; it af­fects more the brain func­tion, cog­ni­tion, which means that it is more dif­fi­cult to treat. You have to get some se­ri­ous psy­cho­log­i­cal ther­apy to man­age that.”

She ar­gued that the prob­lem also has to be ad­dressed in homes, as many chil­dren are beaten for things that are a nor­mal part of child de­vel­op­ment be­cause they are ex­plor­ing, which is how they learn.

“We have to ed­u­cate per­sons on the im­pact of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment on chil­dren as a form of vi­o­lence. We also have to help per­sons to un­der­stand the al­ter­na­tives,” said Samm­sVaughn.

“We are not say­ing chil­dren must run wild; chil­dren need to be dis­ci­plined, but there are mech­a­nisms for dis­ci­pline that mo­ti­vate chil­dren to per­form bet­ter. It is so much bet­ter to mo­ti­vate than pun­ish; the re­wards are so much greater, and ev­ery­body ben­e­fits.”

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