Shehzad Roy hails ‘historic’ bill banning corporal punishment

ISLAMABAD: Musician and education activist Shehzad Roy has hailed the passing of a bill by the National Assembly banning corporal punishment and setting out penalties for physically punishing children.

Roy, founder of Zindagi Trust which has been campaigning to get the practice banned since his education TV show in 2013, ramped up their advocacy on the issue in recent weeks and urged key lawmakers to hear the bill on priority.

This followed a petition in the Islamabad High Court a year ago which had led to a court order suspending Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code and effectively banning corporal punishment.

“When a child gets physical punishment, society is telling them – and an entire generation – that violence is a valid means of resolving a problem. This law will not just protect our children but also lay the foundation for a safer, kinder and more peaceful Pakistan,” said Shehzad Roy.

Child rights activists and lawyers Syed Miqdad Mehdi and Ahmar Majeed, whose petition to Lahore High Court (LHC) led to a ban on corporal punishment in all schools after a horrific incident against special children, identified Section 89 as the impediment to any step taken against the cruelty of corporal punishment and demanded its repeal.

According to Mehdi, “corporal punishment is against children’s fundamental rights of dignity, survival, development and protection and should be curbed as soon as possible through legislative measures.”  

In a historic move, the National Assembly passed the ICT Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, which effectively bans all forms of corporal punishment “however light” in all types of educational institutions, child care institutions including foster care, rehabilitation centers and any other alternative care settings.

The new law will penalize teachers for assault and hurt inflicted upon children, regardless of intention, canceling out the provisions of Section 89 of the PPC which had allowed teachers and guardians to administer physical punishment “in good faith” and “for the benefit” of the child.

This was a private member bill moved by Mehnaz Akbar Aziz of the PML-N. The bill had been passed by the Standing Committee for Education as far back as 2019 but it could not make progress as discussion on it was withheld for 15 months after which it was referred to another committee.

Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari presented an amendment under which complaints put forward by children would be brought before a court or a magistrate instead of leaving the complaint procedures vague which often leads to the formation of committees that do not accomplish much.