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Zimbabwe Bans Corporal Punishment For Children

| by Erik Kindel

Children across Zimbabwe won new rights March 2, when the High Court handed down a ruling outlawing corporal punishment against minors, both at home and in school.

If upheld by the country's constitutional court, the ruling will change the way Zimbabwe's parents have dealt with their children for centuries.

Many rights groups have celebrated the corporal punishment ban as a victory for Zimbabwe's constitution. Some, however, have criticized the ruling, arguing that corporal punishment is necessary for childhood education.

 The Rev. Paul Damasane, director of the Ministry of Rural Development, Preservation of Culture and Heritage, told The Herald-Zimbabwe that the practice is guided by Biblical teachings. 

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"The Bible commands us to train up our children and we should find ways of complying with the command both in schools and at home. The Bible says foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of correction drives it away," said Damasane. 

The case was originally brought by Linah Pfungwa on behalf of her 6-year-old daughter, with support from the Justice for Children's Trust, a non-governmental organization providing free legal services to minors in civil and criminal cases.

Pfungwa's daughter had been beaten badly by her first grade teacher with a rubber pipe after she failed to have her mother sign her reading book as evidence she had done her homework.

"My child suffered major bruises and I took photographs and pictures… She had deep bruises on her back and she could hardly sleep properly," said Pfungwa, according to the state-run Chronicle newspaper.

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"I posted the pictures of my daughter on our WhatsApp group for other parents to observe and it turned out that other children had also been assaulted."

The case was won on the argument that corporal punishment and violence of any kind subjected to children breaches the child's rights under Zimbabwe's constitution. Pfungwa also argued that violent punishment is especially dangerous when carried out by school staff because they do so under no formal regulations or system of control.

Pfungwa and Justice for Children's Trust have pushed for other forms of discipline to be used for children.

"My child is well-behaved and well-brought up simply as a result of the dialogue that I use as a means of discipline," Pfungwa stated.

The High Court Justice David Mangota agreed with Pfungwa that neither parents nor teachers should ever lay their hands on children, even if the child has misbehaved. Justice Mangota also declared the section of Zimbabwe's Education Act that permits corporal punishment, unconstitutional.

The case comes shortly after another High Court judge, Justice Esther Muremba, ruled the caning of juveniles too extreme for judicial punishment.

Sources: BBC, Africa News, The Herald / Photo Credit: Africa News

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