[Outlook]Break the ‘rods of love’

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[Outlook]Break the ‘rods of love’

Recently a father was arrested on charges of beating his son and daughter, both around 5 years old, with a steel baton. This is a crime, but was his baton any different from the so called “rod of love” that many parents and teachers still wield? Not at all.
Some adults still claim that corporal punishment is an indispensable tool for education. They say it is an effective way to get their point across. This is wrong.
Child abuse is widespread around the world in advanced and underdeveloped countries alike. According to a study on child abuse by the United Nations, 53,000 children died from child abuse in 2002.
Some 150 million girls and 73 million boys under the age of 18 were sexually abused.
Beatings are often administered to children at home by parents, with many being thrashed with hard objects.
According to a study in Korea conducted by the organization Save the Children, people who inflict physical punishment on children are as follows: parents(45 percent), teachers(24 percent), grandchildren and siblings(10 percent respectively) and other children(8 percent).
The Korea Social Research Center conducted a survey recently on elementary and junior high school students. According to that report, some 80 percent of respondents had experienced physical punishment and 16 percent said they were physically punished very often.
This is disturbing. Corporal punishment lowers self-esteem, increases aggressiveness and damages school performance. People who have been beaten as children are very likely to develop serious problems such as anxiety disorders, depression, hallucination, poor performance, a tendency toward criminal behavior or suicide, developmental disorders and drug addiction.
When married, those who have been abused as children tend to beat their own children, passing on the legacy of violence to their own children. Nevertheless, physical punishment still takes place in the name of love and discipline in homes, schools and communities. Families and schools are supposed to play an important role in preventing violence on children, but instead they often inflict such destructive pain and even spread it.
In 2003, the UN secretary general appointed Paulo Sergio Pinheiro as an independent expert on violence against children. After three years of research, Mr. Pinheiro concluded that such violence can be prevented; we can educate and train children perfectly well without violence.
But many things must be done to achieve this goal.
First, there must be a widespread understanding that violence cannot be sanctioned for any reason.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been signed by 192 countries, including Korea, prohibits all types of physical and mental violence, abuse and negligence.
This convention must be reflected in programs designed to train teachers and educate parents and others who are in contact with children. More people must understand the spirit of the convention and put it into practice.
Second, there must be institutional support for young victims to heal their bodies and minds so they may return to normal lives.
In one county in the American state of Pennsylvania, 114 social workers and therapists work with children who have been abused. Meanwhile, in Korea, an organization for the same purpose has fewer than 300 social workers to serve the entire country.
Third, violence on children must be closely watched. These days, clips that show violence have become widespread on the Internet ― this is a serious social problem. In addition, violence among adolescents is becoming more serious.
It would also be a good idea to have children and adolescents take part in monitoring violence. They have a right to participate in the process of resolving the problems that they face.
Lastly, local governments and civic groups must put more energy into preventing violence against children. They need to prepare concrete measures to prevent child abuse and implement them continuously.
The UN demands that all countries establish laws against violence on children and develop methods to gather data on the issue by 2009. Korea is required to submit a report to the UN General Assembly to show whether Korean children’s rights are being protected. In other words, are our children being victimized? Or are they protected in a wholesome manner?
The content of the report will depend on how we perceive this issue and what we do to solve the problem. This will also define the future quality of life for our children.
Now is the time to break the so-called rod of love.

*The writer is director of Development for Education of Korean Committee for Unicef. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Kyung-hee

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