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Starting at the very beginning

We ask why our society has become such a brutal one. Why do people fight so often for petty issues – and in some cases even kill each other or make other charges against them. Street fights are not uncommon and have in fact grown as the political climate has changed over the past years.

In this situation, it is up to child psychologists and other experts to tell us precisely how much impact domestic violence has on the actions of children who then grow to be the adults fighting on the streets or willing to hit, kill or shoot someone they perceive as an enemy. The issue can be as trivial as throwing out trash from a gate or parking a car in the wrong place.

According to international reports, domestic violence is common in 70-80 per cent of households in Pakistan, with women being the main victims. But, of course, in these homes are also children who watch their mothers being beaten and with this imbibe the culture of violence which lives with them for life. The issue needs to be discussed in more detail. More NGOs and more schools need to take up the issue and deal with children exposed to violence.

Of course, children themselves are commonly beaten. In homes we have two-year-olds who are spanked for having one of the tantrums that all parents of toddlers, or former toddlers, know well about. This spanking in many ways shapes the child. This is why corporal punishment, even by parents, even a slap on the cheek, has been banned in developed nations around the world. Here of course hitting a child is seen as the only way to discipline her or him. There is no concept of rationalizing with the child, explaining to her the situation and why it is wrong to act in a particular way. The lack of education and awareness of parents makes things worse, with few having the skills required to deal with tantrums.

The same happens commonly at schools and is considered the norm. We have heard of children even dying in classrooms because they were beaten too violently or too frequently. Parents have objected in these cases, but not to the daily acts of abuse that take place in classrooms with children commonly being hit. This is simply seen as a means to instill discipline and sometimes admired. Many teachers argue it is impossible to keep class in order without resorting to physical violence against those who break rules. Pedagogy is of course not a subject school teachers have been made familiar with, and they have no other real skills to deal with situations which arise. In addition to this, the levels of boredom many children experience at schools, given the style of lessons, textbooks and everything else in the environment, simply propels them towards bad behaviour and a lack of attention. For this they are beaten either with the hand or with weapons such as rulers, or even canes, sticks and bricks. We have heard of all these cases, and the law against corporal punishment, which exists in at least three of our provinces, is simply not upheld. We wonder if all these factors contribute to the acts of lynching and mob violence we see far too often.

In madrassahs, corporal punishment is even more common and especially brutal. There have been stories of children kept in chains because they have tried to escape the madrassahs where their parents, usually too impoverished to raise children and holding the belief that the madrassas will at least provide them a roof and food, have placed them.

There are also multiple cases of abuse by teachers. And this simply seems to be a part of the culture of these institutions and others like them. It is hardly surprising that children growing up in this climate of violence, then adopt similar practices themselves once they reach the teenage years or move beyond that.

We need to consider where this violence is taking our country and how the expansion in it can be stopped. At the present moment, there is no attempt to do so or know about street or mob violence and what happens in homes, schools, playgrounds or other places. We need to think about the early life of our citizens and what it means for us in the future.

Email: kamilahyat@hotmail.com

Kamila Hyat, "Starting at the very beginning," The News. 2023-05-11.
Keywords: Social sciences , Civil society , Political climate , Culture , Violence , Pakistan , NGOs