Beating children in Guyana’s democracy

Beating children in Guyana’s democracy

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by Vidyaratha Kissoon

“You wuz just on the programme?… let me tell you something… my daughter was 17 the first time I beat her, I had to beat her to straighten her out” said the taxi driver, an old man with beard and cap and who probably don’t break any traffic rules or anything like that.

International Women’s Day 2017 . People being polite about being bold for change and so. Some men want to know about men’s rights.

In other places, men talk about keeping their women in place – abuse and violence are man things and the taxi man talked about beat his 17 year old daughter.

In other countries, fathers kill their daughters to keep honour.

The Guyanese father though, was proud of having to ‘straighten’ his 17 year old daughter. He had other stories he wanted to tell about why it is okay to beat children. There is no shame in Guyana when people talk and are consulted about their need to beat children.

Stan Gouveia wanted to talk about corporal punishment   on his radio programme on International Women’s Day. He is concerned about violence against children and raised the issue when it was no longer really being talked about.

“Corporal punishment’ is the nice phrase used to imply that the people doing the beating have a right to inflict violence on the bodies of others they think need punishing with violence.

Words and phrases are important, in other parts of the law the same activity would be called ‘assault’ when done by adults on other adults.

The radio discussion was about beating children and beating children in schools. In Guyana, schools are places where the Government could assault its citizens.

There was an associated social media discussion which had the usual the defence of culture, and experience and how people would have been worse if they did not get beat and so on. There were people in the discussions who resisted the idea that beating is a good and necessary thing, and said it was time to change.

In 2013, the parliament convened a special select committee and invited submissions from the public. Participatory democracy at its best in Guyana.

Nothing happened since parliament prorogued, there was change in Government and it is still okay to assault children in Guyana’s schools to punish them.

On the evening of International Women’s Day 2017, the University of Guyana held a discussion around research findings into the prosecution of domestic violence against women. One of the discussants Andrew Hicks talked about the need for rehabilitation of perpetrators of violence. Another young discussant Lisa Hussain talked about children learning early about violence and that the change had to start with teaching children respect for each other.

Vanda Radzik is Commissioner on the Women and Gender Equality Commission. In her remarks, she picked up on the link between beating children and other forms of violence like gender based violence.

She issued a call to her ‘brother’ – Minister of Education Dr Rupert Roopnaraine and the other politicians to stop with ‘consulting’ and to actually move to a policy of no beating in schools.

The Minister of Education in December 2015 had said that Government would be eradicating Corporal punishment from schools. However, not much has happened since as the Minister probably had to succumb like his predecessors to the abusive tendencies of his staff. This inability to change is probably symptomatic of other problems in the public education system which led to a Commission of Inquiry.

In January 2016, President Granger also stated that he believed there is no place for Corporal Punishment in Guyana. According to the Kaieteur News report, President Granger said ““We need to remove all forms of corporal punishment from the school and in the home. Maybe 50 years, 100 years ago it might have been typical but the days of going into a class room or a home and seeing the wild cane have passed. Intelligent educated parents must use different means which do not involve the application of force.””

Guyana’s red colour stands out on the Global Map of progress to deal with corporal punishment.

However, it seems the President , like the Minister of Education, could only talk about this and not disrupt the people who like to beat children.

There has been no movement on the legislative agenda, no visible campaign to change attitudes.

Imagine if Guyanese wanted democracy and good governance as badly as they wanted to keep beating children. Imagine if Guyanese wanted a Constitution that really valued every life as equal as much as they wanted to keep beating children. Imagine if the politicians were as afraid of the citizens demanding better governance as they were of citizens who want beat children.

I could have hollered at the taxi driver that he should not be proud of beating his 17 year old daughter. I was afraid of confrontation though and walked away.

He was not the only one who disagreed with the radio programme.

A recently married couple who do not have children also felt the same way as the taxi driver. I hollered at the young husband though, because I knew him. I told him he needed to say before he gets children that he will not be at and that he should learn about parenting.

The #BeBoldForChange on International Women’s Day was about gender parity and equality.

Vanda Radzik asked the audience to think about the Change in the attitude to beating children.

Change is possible. It takes time. It is traumatic for many persons to realise that their behaviour is abusive. They have to learn new behaviours , new ways of asserting their own sense of being an adult looking after children.

Change requires empathy with children and remembering what it was like being ‘bad’. Change requires knowing that getting licks by parents was out of ignorance most times of anything different, and that it is possible to not continue. Violence shuts down communication , as told in a short story by ‘Jane Pierce’

Change is knowing that disciplining children is about teaching and not about beating.

As long as Guyana’s democracy upholds violence against children as a standard of culture and sovereignty, there will be little change to reducing other forms of violence.

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