Thursday, June 27

‘Include parents in discussion on proposal to declare caning children a criminal offence’

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KUCHING: Members of the public, especially parents, should be involved in the discussion on the proposal to criminalise caning of children.

National PKR Women vice-president Voon Shiak Ni made this call following the proposal made by Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to have a more detailed provision on actions that could cause physical or mental injuries to children – including caning – under the proposed revision of the Child Act, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament by June the latest.

“Although the ministry has clarified that the action of refining the law would be in line with the proposal to abolish Section 91 (1) (g) of the Child Act 2001 where the court is allowed to conduct caning on children found guilty, we need to distinguish between the caning provided under the law for an offence; and that by parents, teachers and guardians,” she said in a press statement yesterday.

Voon, who is also PKR Stampin vice chairwoman, said it was pertinent for the ministry to obtain feedback from parties concerned in the issue, especially parents and teachers, on the extent and nature of the caning allowed for disciplinary purposes.

“This is because it is undeniable that the fear of being caned could serve as a deterrent for misbehavior, as well as to condition and structure a child’s behavior – in line with the saying ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’,” she said, stressing that while caning should not be totally categorised as a criminal action, there must be certain guidelines on its permissible usage for disciplinary purposes.

“We do think that caning cannot be totally made criminal, but we also agree that to a certain extent, it is permissible for good disciplinary purposes such as allowing caning on the palm of the hand.”

Voon said the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry should be very sensitive in coming up with any proposal to avoid uncertainties and ambiguities that could result in misinterpretation of the new Act; thus subjecting it to possible abuse later on.

“(If this happens), there could be parents running to court because their children have been caned by their teachers, or a child reporting abuse by parents.”

The ministry, in a statement, said it was studying the proposal so that the legislation would cover all acts causing physical and emotional injuries to children, subjecting them (acts) as criminal offences that allow the perpetrators to be charged, tried and sentenced upon conviction in court.

Moreover, the ministry was also considering alternative punishments apart from fines and imprisonment, such as mandatory community service or counseling.