YANGON — For the first time, child rights groups in Myanmar will conduct a campaign to raise public awareness about eliminating all corporal punishment against children from Nov. 11 to 18, ahead of Universal Children’s day.
Daw Ni Ni Hla, Head of Program of Child Rights Governance of Save the Children, told The Irrawaddy that the campaign hopes to raise public awareness of positive alternative methods for the benefit of children as opposed to the physical or mental abuse sometimes inflicted.
“It seems like it’s no big deal. But it could undermine self-value and self-respect of children and make them grow fearful…If they don’t learn to respect themselves, they won’t respect others. The physical admonition is just being used as a means to assert authority.”
Hitting or beating children— in other words, corporal punishment—and verbal abuse for indiscretions are regarded as normal behavior among many adults in Myanmar society.
But with a handful of cases of harsh punishment against children going viral on social media, netizens voiced anger over the disciplinary method.
In a recent case, a teacher at a primary school in Bago Region gave two girls and three boys in her classroom the punishment of standing in front of the class half naked. In another case in 2015, a household maid repeatedly beat a naked 8-year-old girl living in the home of a military lawmaker in Bahan Township of Yangon.
The “Stop Corporal Punishment Campaign,” which was organized by the NGOs Child Rights Working Group (NCRWG) will start on social media platforms, sharing campaign posts and videos on Save the Children in Myanmar page and local artists’ pages, from Nov. 11 to 17.
As part of the campaign, an estimated 1,000 to 3,000 campaigners will also gather at Mahabandoola Park in Yangon from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 18. The campaign will also be conducted in Karenni and Shan states, and Magwe Region along with Yangon.
Daw Ni Ni Hla from the Save the Children said under the draft bill of the revised 1993 Child Law, corporal punishment against children is prohibited. Physical or mental abuse against children, including beating or any kind of punishment, by anyone including parents, teachers or employees will bring a month to two years imprisonment or a fine of between 300, 000 kyats and 500, 000 kyats, or both, as penalties.
The child or the representative in respect of his or her rights can file complaint under the law.
Daw Ni Ni Hla stressed that public awareness of the law and the directive issued by the government that said corporal punishment shouldn’t be used at schools needs to be raised widely.
“When the public shares incidents of child abuse, they also need to be aware that they should cover the kids’ private areas and faces. But most aren’t aware,” she added.
She said the rights groups will consult with the parliamentary Bill Committee in the coming weeks ahead of the revised Child Law going to Parliament.
NCRWG, formed in 2009, is a working group of more than 50 child-focused INGOs and local NGOs that work together to fulfill the rights of children in Myanmar.