FIJI COURT STOPS CANING IN SCHOOLS, JAILS

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By Samisoni Pareti

SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 22, 2002 - Sun/PINA Nius Online)---Canning of students or prisoners is now illegal in Fiji following a landmark decision by the Lautoka High Court.

Acting puisne judge Jayant Prakash said the inflicting of the birch on criminals is in breach of the Constitution.

Inflicting of corporal punishment in schools is also unconstitutional and unlawful.

Justice Prakash said both the provisions of corporal punishment in the criminal procedure code and the Ministry of Education guidelines are in clear breach of a section of the constitution that states:

"Every person has the right to freedom from torture of any kind, whether physical, mental or emotional, and from cruel, inhumane, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment."

The Fiji Human Rights Commission made submissions to Judge Prakash, arguing that corporal punishment both in prisons and in school breaches the Constitution.

The commission used the case of a Ba laborer who was ordered to receive six strokes of the cane last August after pleading guilty of sodomizing his six-year old daughter.

Justice Prakash upheld the commission's argument that the imposition of corporal punishment on offenders is not only unconstitutional but is also cruel, degrading and inhumane.

He noted the offense of whipping or corporal punishment was abolished in Britain in 1967 and has been abolished in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most Commonwealth countries.

On corporal punishment in schools, the judge said, "Our educational institutions should be sanctuaries of peace and creative enrichment, not places for fear, ill-treatment and tampering with the human dignity of students."

Recognizing that it is the right of parents to discipline their children, this right "cannot be compared to disciplining of children by teachers."

"Teachers have no such rights," the judge said. "It is questionable whether parents can delegate such rights."

Attempts to get a comment from Secretary of Education Emi Rabukawaqa were unsuccessful.

For additional reports from the Fiji Sun, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Sun.

[Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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