PETALING JAYA: The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry says that there is no proposal to outlaw the caning of children by parents and teachers.
It was clarifying some newspaper reports that quoted Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim as saying that parents who use the cane on their children could be jailed under a new Act to be tabled in June to replace the Child Act 2001.
The ministry issued a statement yesterday saying that it had only proposed to abolish caning of minors in court.
It said as Malaysia was a signatory of the CRC, the country was obligated to end corporal punishment for children.
“At present, Section 91 (1) (g) of the Child Act 2001 allows a male child to be caned no more than 10 times if convicted with a criminal offence. In this case, caning as carried out in court differs from caning at schools or at home. Caning carried out in court follows a procedure according to the law. However, in light of psychological development and in accordance with CRC, the ministry has proposed to abolish the punishment.
“In line with the suggested abolition of caning in court, the ministry has observed the act of caning children among Malaysians. At this time, the proposal in the new Bill does not mean that each act of caning becomes a criminal offence.
“Only when the act of caning causes physical and mental injuries, then it becomes an offence under the existing law. Currently vicious injury is already an offence under Section 31(1) of the Child Act 2001. One can be jailed up to 10 years or fined up to RM20,000 or both,’’ it said.
The ministry added that it was studying the proposal to add in more detailed provisions to cover acts of physical and emotional violence against children, with longer jail terms or higher fines.
“The ministry is considering alternative punishments such as community service, attending parenting courses or counselling.”
In spite of Rohani’s clarification that there was no proposal to criminalise the caning of children by parents and teachers, many parents still felt that corporal punishment should be done away with.
National Association of Early Childhood Care and Education Malaysia president Datin Radziah Mohd Daud said parents often tended to cane children out of anger and frustration.
“In Islamic thinking, a parent is allowed to hit a child to educate him in instances such as when a child aged above seven refuses to perform the solat or prayers.
“Even in the religious sense, there are restrictions as to how and where to hit the child and most importantly, it should be fuelled by a desire to educate and not to vent anger,” she said.
Radziah, who has three children, said she did not use corporal punishment to raise them, but used negotiation and justification instead.
She said parents often denied a child’s request for something, without explaining why.
“It is a matter of negotiation between parents and children. Don’t just say no to a child without a valid reason. When you reason with children, they will listen to you.
“However, this process must be instilled in children in the early years, otherwise it will be difficult to make them conform to acceptable behaviour,” she added.
Radziah said parents could still be strict with their children without resorting to caning.
“For example, they can maintain eye contact with the child when telling them not to do something and then justify why they should not be doing it,” she added.
Parent Action Group for Education (Page) Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said it had never been in favour of corporal punishment in schools.
“Corporal punishment is the old way of thinking. Research and studies have shown that there is no benefit,” she said.
The mother-of-four said there were other, more effective ways of disciplining children.