Headline — 02 April 2016 — by Adele Ramos
Criminalize corporal punishment, Ombudsman Arzu says

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 31, 2016–The 2015 report of Ombudsman Lionel Arzu, released on Wednesday this week, was the subject of discussion at the National Assembly yesterday, when the Ombudsman’s Report Committee met in session under the chairmanship of Dangriga area representative Frank “Papa” Mena.

There was a hearty discussion on the content of the report, primarily consisting of complaints against police abuses, many of which remain unresolved even as the Ombudsman tries to settle them with authorities in the Police Department.

In this year’s report, the Ombudsman made a bold recommendation, calling for laws to criminalize corporal punishment not just in schools, where teachers are now forbidden to whip children, but also in homes—where traditional corporal punishment is administered as a form of discipline.

In his report, Arzu said, “It was brought to our attention that corporal punishment of minors is still allowed, and practiced. This violates the rights of the child. Therefore, it is recommended that all corporal punishment of minors be criminalized — in the home, prisons, schools and elsewhere. Domestic laws such as the Criminal Code (See Section 39) and the Prisons Act should be modified to bring them in alignment with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Arzu said that at the House Committee which met yesterday, ministers and area representatives took issue with the recommendation. While some could understand that corporal punishment would be banned in schools and prisons, they indicate that there is a fine line when it comes to the home.

Those were some of the things thrown out at the meeting, Arzu told us.

He raised the scenario of Human Services being called on parents who whip their children and leave bruises on their bodies, or another scenario of an uncle slapping his niece for being “upstart.” He pointed to the need for children to be protected from bodily harm.

The recommendation has sparked mixed reaction from our Facebook followers.

“No,” Ayana Flowers rebutted. “Responsible parents whip their kids, so that police do not have to deal with them later.”

“Please tell the Ombudsman fuh mi, thats why crime in Belize de so,” said Gaspari Cordova.

“The Ombudsman will not tell me how to raise my child. Let that law be amended for the city where crime cannot be controlled,” retorted Pop Abelito.

“NOOO NOOO…NOOOO…i don’t agree….are they trying to get us like USA…where u can’t even spank your own child as a form of discipline, or the police will charge [you] for child abuse. Nooo. BUT!, if the corporal punishment is in excess of the norm, i do not agree with that method. My 2 cents!” said Eden Cruz.

Martin Maas says, “So the government knows how our children should be raised but can’t secure our borders, protect its citizen from violent criminals etc. My child is my business.”

“What the heck! If i whip my child da fi correct them. E hurt me more when i wud have to do so but it wud hurt me more seeing them in jail or prob dead, an as a matter of fact e hurt me fi bring them ya…” said Aracelle Velasquez.

Ron Hyde agrees with the Ombudsman: “To everyone defending corporal punishment of children and at the same time decrying crime in Belize, how is that corporal punishment strategy working out for you? Violence teaches that violence is OK. Education and rethinking better ways to train children has to come before criminalization, though. Parents beat their children because that is the way they were raised. Once people learn a better method, they should be GLAD to stop spanking if it really hurts THEM as much as they say.”

“To a certain extent, yes. I was spanked when i was a kid… was never bruised… but it was brought to my attention what i was doing was wrong. Followed by an explanation. I mean kids do understand that was done by my parents thou. Teachers well yeah, they shouldn’t discipline kids. I believe they should have a meeting with the parents and have the child present…. It might be difficult in some cases becuz some parents don’t care about their kids education,” said Sally Whites.

David Acosta said, “There are several methods for disciplining children. Corporal punishment is dangerous since it diminishes a child. It also brings resentment on the part of the child. But there should be departments that should be helping parents on parenting skills. Our parents today are very busy working hard to make ends meet hence not enough QUALITY TIME is spent speaking to their children. Fifty years ago when we went to school we were whipped by the teachers and we learned. Today that method is obsolete. Teachers need to be taught alternative forms of discipline. Corporal punishment is a thin line away from cruelty. More discussion needs to be done on the topic. But as usual, the powers that be are prompt to condemn without offering alternatives.”

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