Hong Kong must ban corporal punishment of children at home

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 11:10pm

I refer to Yonden Lhatoo’s column (“Should Hong Kong ban spanking of children at home as well as in school?” January 13). We should and we must impose a blanket ban on spanking children at home.

Children’s best interests have not been served by debates on this subject in society or by government policies.

Lhatoo refers to a comedian who quoted his father saying that “somebody gonna get a-hurt real bad”. Lhatoo’s view that not many children in Hong Kong get “a-hurt real bad” shows exactly why the best interests of the child are not being considered. And this is why the law considers a certain degree of corporal punishment as “reasonable chastisement”.

This prevailing attitude adversely affects the search for a better parenting approach to spare children from being harmed, and it fails to reverse a deterioration in family solidarity.

Situations of child abuse and neglect in Hong Kong are getting worse.

Lhatoo mentioned a 2015 survey showing that about half of the city’s children, aged six to 13, were physically disciplined by their parents. Isn’t that bad enough? These parents used “bare hands as well as handy implements like clothes hangers and rulers to inflict punitive pain”.

Hospitals, police, government agencies and NGOs have handled numerous cases of alleged physically abused children. What started out as physical discipline, eventually resulted in them being “a-hurt real bad”.

There is insufficient understanding of the psychological and social aspects of a child being hurt badly.

These aspects, and the actual bruises and injuries sustained, may contribute to a child’s loss of trust in themselves and others. These children can feel a sense of shame and loss of self-esteem. They can lose interest in their studies and sometimes even the desire to go on living.

Allowing or inflicting that hurt, even if it is not “real bad”, should still be considered as a violation of a child’s innate rights. That is exactly why 52 countries have totally banned corporal punishment, and in some jurisdictions it is a criminal offence.

The law in all these countries defines the baseline for acceptable parenting.

Hong Kong needs legislation that outlaws any action (or inaction) that violates a child’s innate rights. Society should support parents to become role models and practise effective and caring child management, instead of condoning the use of expedient or harmful methods.

Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, chairperson, Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights