House Bill seeking to reduce violent discipline of children passes first hurdle

unicefThe House committee on the welfare of children has just approved a bill that seeks to promote positive and non-violent forms of disciplining children rather than more traditional violent methods. Called the Positive Discipline Act of 2011, the bill was filed by Partylist Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy and Tarlac 2nd District Representative Susan Yap.

This news comes as UNICEF releases a new global report on Child Disciplinary Practices at Home covering low- and middle- income countries. The report reveals that three out of four children surveyed experience some form of violent discipline, about half experience some form of physical punishment and three in four experience psychological aggression.

The report explains that existing studies suggest that exposing a child to violent discipline has harmful consequences for the victim as well as the society in which he or she lives. They show that even mild forms of physical discipline are harmful to children, hindering their cognitive capacity and increasing the proclivity for future violent acts. Violent psychological discipline – including ridicule, threats and intimidation – has also been shown to have a range of negative behavioural impacts in childhood and beyond.

“Most violence that is inflicted upon children is committed in the home – and thus tends to be hidden,” said Theresa Kilbane, UNICEF, Senior Advisor Child Protection. “This report seeks to bring the extent of violent disciplinary practices out of the shadows to promote alternative, non-violent, forms of discipline and participatory forms of child-rearing.”

High profile cases of child violence and beatings, and the widespread practice of violent discipline is what prompted Congress to act with a proposed legislation to assist parents in fulfilling their parental authority while also upholding the rights of children to assistance and protection from violent abuse and cruelty.

The Positive Discipline Act of 2011, once approved into law, will put in place a comprehensive program that will provide protection for children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury and neglect.

“There are global evidences that violence against children is harmful as it impedes their development and has negative impact on their childhood. This is an opportunity for the Philippines to be in the forefront of the advocacy to institutionalize and promote positive and non-violent ways of disciplining children,” Child Rights Network (CRN) co-convenor Selena Fortich said.

As defined under the bill, positive and non-violent discipline refer to an approach to correct the behavior of a child and to teach a lesson that would build self-discipline and emotional control while nurturing a good relationship with the child by understanding the his or her needs and capabilities at various ages.

This early, the Department of Education has affirmed its support to the bill and has likewise initiated some actions together with UNICEF that would address violence against children in school settings.

Background on UNICEF Global Report — Child Disciplinary Practices at Home

The UNICEF report reveals that a discrepancy exists between attitudes and behaviors. Although physical punishment is widespread, in most countries the majority of primary caregivers do not think there is a need for it. On average only one in four caregivers believes that physical punishment is needed to properly bring up a child.

The release of the report prompted the United Nations Human Rights Council to call for better data and research on violence against children in order to strengthen government action for prevention and response to violence, including legislative reform to prohibit it in all its forms.

“Widely perceived as a social taboo, violence against children is seldom reported, and children often feel frightened to speak up and seek support. Official statistics do not capture the true scale and extent of this phenomenon,” said Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative on Violence against Children. Without good data, national planning is compromised, effective policy-making and resource mobilization are hampered, and targeted interventions are limited in their ability to prevent and combat violence against children.”

“A comprehensive, well-coordinated and resourced national strategy to address violence against children in all its forms needs to be implemented in all countries and grounded on sound data and analysis,” said Ms. Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children.

The report can be downloaded from: http://www.childinfo.org/discipline.html.

[UNICEF Press Release]