Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (Nov. 7) - Criminalizing corporal punishment at home will cause an uproar in households across the country, no doubt about that.

How do you tell a father from the interior of Viti Levu that if he smacks his son, he could end up paying a fine or, worse, go to jail?

How do you tell a rural mother that she cannot smack her daughter for refusing to help out around the house?

Most families in Fiji are very conservative in how they discipline their children. They have set ways and views on how children should be kept in line. When parents send their children away for education, they tell host relatives to discipline the child if he or she is naughty.

There are horror stories where parents have gone overboard in disciplining their children. In some cases, children are put into sacks, tied up to the rafters and are hit with a plank. In other cases, parents have drawn their children's blood from severe beatings. Sometimes, the child dies from the thrashing.

Cases such as these should be prosecuted and the parents should be held accountable.

But in conservative Fiji, it would be prudent to consult, have dialogue and slowly introduce this idea to make it more acceptable to the masses.

Eventually, Fiji will have to go down that road and enact legislation to protect the rights of children from corporal punishment.

It is inevitable. But it must be done well to be effective. And those who promote these causes must come ready with suggestions and ideas that are acceptable alternative forms of punishment.

You can't introduce a policy that works overseas into Fiji without first making changes to suit the local environment and custom.

For instance, you can't go to a village and tell the parents there that if their children misbehave, they can discipline them by withdrawing privileges such as allowances, TV time and so on.

It doesn't work in the village because the children don't get allowances and are lucky to even have a television set at home.

For such a policy to work in Fiji, people's attitudes and way of thinking must change.

The law must also be very specific in its definition of corporal punishment, guardians and parents must be taught the fine print and there must be a procedure in place to ensure that children do not manipulate the system.

Fiji must not implement policies just because it can. Fiji must implement policies when it is ready, when there has been a massive awareness campaign and when the time is right.

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