In March 2014, a Malaysian couple was sentenced to jail by a Stockholm court for beating their children using a rotan (cane). This brought attention to the nature of corporal punishment as a way of raising children in this country.

Before this case made international headlines, most people in Malaysia would not bat an eyelid if someone were to mention that they use a cane to discipline their kids. It was a norm as many of us had been subjected to caning or some form of beating as punishment during our childhood.

While such corporal punishment is accepted in this country, I want to emphasise that there is a fine line between disciplining and abusing. Honestly, I have no problem giving a little smack on the hand of a naughty child but I would not beat a child excessively. I have seen cases where parents use a cane or a belt until the bruises were visible on the child’s skin. It is often easy for an adult to lose control when in anger and this could lead to fatal consequences. Hence, I see the point in some countries such as Sweden outlawing corporal punishment.

Besides parents, teachers in Malaysia are also guilty of meting out such punishments. In February, a teacher punched four teenagers until they bled for spilling water and forgetting their books. Another one forced two primary students to wear a cow bell around their necks and eat grass for not completing their homework. These two teachers were given warnings and transferred to another school instead of a jail sentence. Now, these punishments are abusive and the way the authorities handled these cases is seriously questionable. If the same principles in the Sweden case were to be applied to these teachers, they would get a life sentence.

In light of these cases, I think it is time for the Malaysian community to review the way they raise their children and how far educators can go to punish kids in school. While we may not adopt Sweden’s approach to the matter, we need to redefine the line between discipline and abuse. After all, our children are the future and it is our duty to protect them.

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