Put aside discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of corporal punishment for a moment. I’m positing instead that by continuing to allow corporal punishment, Jamaica is in breach of its obligations under the international treaties we have signed, and also that corporal punishment is now arguably unconstitutional.
Corporal Punishment in Schools
Jamaica ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1991.
The UNCRC does not specifically prohibit corporal punishment. This has, however, been interpreted as the effect of the treaty by the Committee which monitors and interprets the Convention.
Article 37 prohibits torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment while Article 19 places a duty on states to take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse…”
The Committee has repeatedly stated that corporal punishment is incompatible with the
Convention, for example in a 2001 General Comment on The Aims of Education, that “Children do not lose their human rights by virtue of passing through the school gates. …”
In 2006 the Committee stated in another General Comment that “The Committee defines “corporal” or “physical” punishment as any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light” and said that “In the view of the Committee, corporal punishment is invariably degrading.”
The Committee, as far back as 1995, identified corporal punishment of children as an area of concern in relation to Jamaica’s fulfillment of its Convention obligations.
Jamaica also ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1975. The Committee which monitors that Convention stated in 1999 in a General Comment on the “The Right to Education” that “ …corporal punishment is inconsistent with the fundamental guiding principle of international human rights law…the dignity of the individual.”