EDITORIAL: Sparing the rod

Criminalising corporal punishment is a bold step; however, parents and society also must act to protect child rights

Children are the pillars of a nation. They need to be nurtured well —physically and mentally — from the very beginning of their life. Physically healthy and mentally sound children can be the driving force of economic growth in the future. It is the healthy and well educated young population that can lead the country towards prosperity. A healthy young population is an asset in itself provided that the state has a robust policy to engage it in education. The state, parents, communities and schools/colleges must heed to the overall development of the youths, be it in education or in health or in employment. The countries with high percentage of young population below 18 years of age need to invest more on education and skills. According to the Ministry of Health, Population and Environment, there are around 3.2 million youths aged between 15-19. This is the most delicate segment of population that still does not get proper attention for its overall growth without giving them undue stresses. We — the parents, teachers and the community as a whole — still tend to think corporal punishment is a way to discipline the children.

However, the Children Act, 2018 has criminalised corporal punishment of children in all forms. By enacting this law, Nepal has become the first country in South Asia and 54th in the world to do so. The Act has defined that a person below the age of 18 is a child and s/he should not subjected to corporal punishment. Criminalising the corporal punishment — physical or mental torture or degrading treatment either at homes, schools or in other places—is a bold step in safeguarding the children’s rights. The Act has listed 18 actions as violence against children and 11 as sexual offences against them. As per the Act, anybody found guilty of physically or mentally torturing a child shall be slapped a fine not exceeding Rs 50,000 and an imprisonment not exceeding one year. The law explicitly bars taking children to dance bars, casino and other places offering entertainment only for adults. The Act has also criminalised involving children in political rallies, strikes or sit-ins which are very common in Nepal.

However, punitive action alone will not be enough to bring an end to corporal punishment. Parents and teachers are the ones who better understand children’s psychology, their desires and aspirations as both spend most of their time with the kids at home or school. Understanding children’s psychology — they feel mental pressure when they experience physical changes as they grow up — and  providing them with proper counselling are the best ways to give them a better and a secure future. Apart from this, parents also should know about the importance of family planning, reproductive health and timing of parenting a child. Friendly relationship with children, providing practical assistance and emotional support whenever needed, and generating hope and confidence in them are the basics of parenting and also the best ways of overcoming children’s stressful situation. A well-trained teacher in child psychology can play a vital role in developing cognitive ability of a child. The law itself is not enough, parents, society and teachers also should act accordingly.

Poverty reduction

Poverty reduction is a major global challenge. And Nepal is no exception. Achieving Sustainable Development Goals will remain a pipedream unless the Goal 1 that calls for eradicating poverty in all its forms by 2030 is achieved. It’s not that Nepal has not made any progress over the years, but the pace has been slow. Around 24 per cent of the population in Nepal is still below the poverty line. In Nepal, lack of accountability, bad governance and corruption among others make a deadly combination that creates a vicious cycle of poverty.

Since we already know the level of poverty and the causes, it’s now time to address the challenges. Sadly the county still lacks a concrete policy on poverty reduction. Poverty makes negative impacts on country’s economy in different ways. It makes a society—and a country—vulnerable to all ills. It deprives people not only of wealth but also of their rights. Now that the country has attained political stability with governments at all levels, concerted efforts are required to introduce policies, rules and regulations to reduce poverty. Poverty is an affront to human

dignity and an insult to us all.