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Bangladesh top court declares corporal punishment at schools illegal

From Farid Ahmed, For CNN
  • Bangladesh's High Court bans caning, beating and chaining in schools
  • Justices: "Such punishment is a clear violation of children's fundamental rights"
  • The ruling applies to primary and secondary schools as well as Islamic religious schools

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) -- A top court has banned any corporal punishment in schools in Bangladesh, a country where millions of children are exposed to physical abuse, officials said Thursday.

Despite official instructions to teachers on alternative approaches to child discipline, many children continue to live in fear of violence in schools, the High Court said.

The court said caning, beating, chaining, forced haircuts and confinement are used to punish children in primary and secondary schools as well as in Islamic religious schools, known at madrassas.

"Such punishment is a clear violation of children's fundamental rights to life and liberty," said the order handed down by Justices Imman Ali and Sheikh Hasan Arif.

They said teachers' involvement in corporal punishment should be treated as "misconduct" and asked the government to take action against those teachers.

The court judgment followed a public-interest litigation filed by two leading rights groups, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust and Ain O Shalish Kendra.

As the High Court started hearing the rights groups' petition last July, it asked the government to take steps to stop corporal punishment, noting allegations that a 10-year-old boy had committed suicide after he had been beaten by his teacher.

A spokesman in the ministry of education said that in response, it had issued a circular asking teachers to stop physical abuse in schools.

"In fact, teachers are not well-trained and they need deftness to understand child psychology and alternative approaches to child discipline," Shafiq Rahman, a banker in Dhaka, told CNN. He has a child in the school system.

A survey conducted by the United Nations Children Fund, or UNICEF, in Dhaka couple of years ago involving nearly 4,000 families found that 91 percent of children experienced physical abuse in schools.

It said the poorer children were more likely to experience physical punishment, with greater frequency and severity, than richer students.