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Stop the abuse

Barbadians have been exposed to a debate on parenting and the rights of children during the last couple of weeks.

This debate was sparked by a YouTube video of a parent apparently inflicting a severe beating on her teenage daughter. Interestingly enough this debate coincided with a series of consultations and public discussions on laws pertaining to families and children in Barbados by children’s champion and consultant, former Magistrate Faith Marshall-Harris.

It is to be profoundly regretted that in this enlightened 21st century the beating and brutalising of our children can find support from so many “loving”, “law abiding”, “Christian minded”, and “educated” Barbadians.

This is the same society which has consistently spoken of the violent behaviour exhibited by children and young adults both in and out of the school system.

While discussing media coverage of the alleged incident, I was horrified to hear a female parent say: “The Mother right! If she was my child I would kill she wid blows”.

Unfortunately we are living in a country which obviously has had a very uneven level of progress and development over the years. We have been very progressive in our infrastructural and material development, but have stagnated to the point of regression in our parenting and child rearing strategies.

This country desperately needs a reality check in very critical areas of its social development.

In spite of universal education, far too many parents still see instilling discipline as being synonymous with beating. Too many teachers see the rod and strap in the classroom as their symbol of authority.

And worse yet, our laws have permitted the institutionalisation of corporal punishment which is no more than a nice way of permitting the abuse of vulnerable children placed in their care.

I have long maintained that no teacher irrespective of his/her seniority should want to accept responsibility for administering corporal punishment to anyone’s child or children in this progressive age. Our society is so rank with ambivalence on this matter, that we seemingly have come to accept it as the norm.

We, who are descendants of a system of slavery which permitted our fore-parents to be dehumanised and beaten unmercifully by plantation overseers and managers, should under no conditions condone any such treatment of our children.

This can be attributed to intellectual laziness coupled with the mental and psychological slavery which regretfully we have internalised and handed down from generation to generation to the disadvantage of not only children by the entire society.

Domestic abuse and the violence which we so often condemn constitute a central component of the socialisation of our children.

I am diametrically opposed to any form of corporal punishment in the school system and am tempted to say very facetiously of course that we should all support the flogging/beating of children when employers and supervisors are similarly permitted to do the same to adults in the workplace for breaches of discipline or their inability to get the job done as instructed.

What we saw in that YouTube video is an open secret which has been happening in homes across this country from slavery and is but the tip of the iceberg. And this backwardness will continue until those of us who know better or should know better take a decisive stand in defence of the rights of defenceless children.

Please for the sake of our children stop the abuse.

* George Griffith is Executive Director – Barbados Family Planning Association.

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