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Ending corporal punishment

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According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), more than two in three children in the majority of countries worldwide are subjected to violent discipline – either through physical punishment or psychological aggression – by their caregivers, who are usually their parents or adult family members.

Most of these children, about 300 million globally, experience physical punishment, based on data released on June 11, which also marked the first ever International Day of Play.

Psychological abuse includes screaming at a child or calling them “stupid” or “lazy,” while physical abuse incudes shaking, hitting, or spanking, or any action intended to cause physical pain or discomfort without leaving any visible signs of injury.

One in four mothers and other adults taking care of children believe that “physical punishment is necessary to raise and educate children properly,” the data also showed.

In the Philippines, UNICEF estimates that around 20 million children, or 59 percent of the 33.4 million who are aged 1 to 14, have experienced violent discipline in the past month.

The numbers suggest that nothing had changed since 2012, when the country made a commitment to the international community to prohibit corporal punishment.

The latest UNICEF data mirrors the results of the Philippine government’s National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children that was done in 2016, which found that “three in every five Filipino children are experiencing physical and psychological violence in their homes, schools, and communities.”

“When children are subjected to physical or verbal abuse at home, or when they are deprived of social and emotional care from their loved ones, it can undermine their sense of self-worth and development,” UNICEF executive director Catherine Russel said in a statement accompanying the data.

UNICEF noted that even if more countries had banned corporal punishment of children in their homes, nearly 500 million children under the age of 5 remain without legal protection against such practices. In the Philippines, it is unlawful in the penal system, schools, alternative care settings and day care centers, but is technically not prohibited in the home.

It will probably take an entire generation before the mentality among Filipino parents changes when it comes to corporal punishment, but if government steps in, either through better monitoring and enforcement, along with information campaigns, the process can certainly be expedited. For now, all we can do is continue to remind parents and care givers that physical and psychological punishment is abuse, and shouldn’t be resorted to as it has serious long term effects on the children.*

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