Pak to ban corporal punishment in schools

Tuesday 10th March 2020 16:20 EDT

Islamabad: Pakistan will soon ban corporal punishment in schools across the country but an advisory body on Islamic issues was opposed to the move, a senior minister told a top court. Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that the federal Cabinet has approved a bill to ban corporal punishment and it would be introduced for debate and passage by Parliament, Dawn News reported.

During the hearing of a petition filed by singer and activist Shehzad Roy against corporal punishment in schools in Pakistan, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah wondered why the bill was not tabled in Parliament though the Cabinet approved it in March 2019.

Last month, the IHC ordered a complete ban on corporal punishment in educational institutions operating in the federal capital territory. Justice Minallah had subsequently suspended Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which allows corporal punishment in some cases in the federal capital territory.

Responding to the court's queries, Mazari confirmed that the federal Cabinet had approved the bill and it had to be sent to Parliament now. Roy's lawyer informed the court that lawmaking had been done in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces to stop violence against the children. Mazari told the court that while her ministry 'fully supports' Roy's petition, the 'law ministry said it is out of your (ministry's) jurisdiction'.

Ensuring safety of children from such violence was the 'job of the federal government and it is a human rights issue', remarked Justice Minallah. Explaining why the bill had not been tabled in Parliament despite being okayed by the Cabinet, Mazari said ministry of interior sent it to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CCI) and the council 'raised objections' against it.

At this, Justice Minallah remarked that 'Islam teaches about the dignity of humans, not violence (against them).' 'Physical and mental punishments negatively affect the personality of a child,' he observed. 'We cannot endorse corporal punishment in schools. Even Islam forbids torture against children. There is never a good intention to hit a child. The times have changed: we must give more respect to children,' he was quoted as saying.

He also said that he could not understand why the interior ministry had sent the draft of the law to the CCI for approval. The CCI is a constitutional body that advises Pakistan's legislature whether or not a certain law is repugnant to Islam. The court observed that the CCI had objected to the bill 'without citing relevant Islamic teachings' and that 'all incidents of violence against children are a result of not following Islamic teachings.' 'The mindset of punishing children physically must be changed. It is this mindset that becomes the foundation for violent crimes against children,' the chief justice observed.

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