Submission on the attitude of Guyanese to corporal punishment and its possible abolition

Dear Sir/Madam

Re : Submission on the attitude of Guyanese, especially parents and children, to corporal punishment and its possible abolition;

My name is Vidyaratha Kissoon . I am Guyanese. I have been beaten as a child and have witnessed other children being beaten. I taught in a secondary school for one year and during that year, I beat a child upon the request of the Headmistress.

I used to think that it was okay to beat children. Thanks to the Guyanese who are working against domestic violence and child abuse, my attitude has changed. These Guyanese are committed to working with others to change their attitudes to violence and the use of violence in Guyana. They are not trying to please white people or any foreign powers.

I have learnt that it is futile to believe that domestic violence can be eradicated while allowing adults to beat children. I have also learnt that it is possible for Guyanese to change their attitudes so as to not beat children.

On 28 February, 2013 Professor Verene Shepherd gave a lecture about Gender and anti-slavery in Georgetown. She described in several ways the punishment meted out to the enslaved women men and children. Those punishments included lashes and the offences varied. Our history of beating children is not from any well founded sense of a common Guyanese humanity. Our history of beating children is from a history of subjugation and dehumanisation.

The National Assembly will know of the the work of Help & Shelter, Red Thread and Everychild Guyana/ChildLink and others who have worked with adults to address the culture of violence. The work is done by engaging and reasoning, through participatory learning about childhood development and re-learning the meaning of discipline. This work has resulted in adults being relieved that they do not have to beat children to prove their adulthood. The adults who stop beating children do so after committing not to do violence. They let go of the fear that their children will rebel.

This submission is based on the conversations with adults who have participated in the work of Help & Shelter, Red Thread, ChildLink and other organisations against domestic violence and child abuse. Some of this work is already documented.

Change in attitude : “The children are becoming more violent, they have more rights than teachers”

Teacher Michelle Richards received a blow to her head which resulted in a fractured skull. The reports in the media state that some students at Wisburg School have a “hit list.” Children have attacked other children and teachers. There have been altercations between parents and teachers.

It is no secret that teachers are dealing with increasing levels of violence. One Headmistress in an encounter said that she felt that scanners should be at her school gates to remove weapons and that her students were not ‘even scared of the police’.

It is a myth however that this violence is rising because beating of children has stopped in schools. Beating happens in Guyanese schools, especially to young children.

The society is violent. Children with weapons – ice picks, knives, sharpened objects reflect a society with increased guns – licensed and unlicensed. The lament that even girl children are now walking with weapons is of course a reality given the levels of violence committed against women and girls in Guyana. Teachers and students must work in safe environments. Beating children does not result in respect or safety, but reinforces that those who with the weapons can inflict the violence.

The National Assembly, instead of endorsing the beating of children must initiate a national programme to address the violence in schools. The National Assembly must provide the schools with the additional human resources to address the problems of the society which are incorporated into the daily lives of schools. Beating children who are already conditioned to violence is hardly likely to bring about any change in the attitude to violence by children or their teachers.

Change in attitude : “It is our Culture “

The filth in our city and our country is a result of the culture of littering proudly embraced by many Guyanese. Most of us would agree though, that the filth should go , even if we think somebody else should clean it up. Many Guyanese of all walks of life, not all Guyanese, believe that it is okay to beat children, as how many believe it is okay to litter. Many Guyanese also believe it is culturally appropriate for men to harass women on the roads as part of the interaction between male and female.

So what is culture is not always good. What is culture is not fixed or unchangeable.

The attitude that beating children because ‘it is our culture’ and therefore sacred, is a travesty against those women, men and children who were whipped on plantations, many times for the same things many children are whipped for today. It also means that if we accept culture cannot be changed, that Georgetown will never be the Garden City again.

The religious views perpetrated that Scripture says that it is okay to beat children needs to be challenged in the State. Let us not forget in our history, that the enslavers used Scripture to justify their actions. Guyana is not bound to follow any particular religious doctrine.

The National Assembly should take leadership in promoting the work to change attitudes to violence towards children, and not reinforce a history of brutality towards those who are vulnerable and weak.

Change in attitude : ‘I was beaten so I am okay, I was bad so I needed the violence”

It is probably true that many people who were beaten are okay. It is difficult for many people to accept that their respected teachers and parents would have been abusing them. The conditioning of acceptance of violence is what happens to many people in domestic violence situations when some survivors feel that they are to blame for the violence. While some persons might feel that they are okay, there are thousands of children who have been brutalised in the name of education and who have been injured in different ways. The Guyana Times newspaper of 1 March 2013 talks about the injuries suffered by two children in Essequibo at the hands of a teacher – about body aches, vomiting and fear. No adult who feels that they are okay should think that what is done do these children is okay. No child in 2013 in Guyana deserves violence.

Change in attitude : ‘Do as I say and not as I do”

Children learn from adults around them. There are contradictions in our society when it comes to behaviours of adults and the expectations of children.

One prominent teacher from a Georgetown secondary school reported proudly how he took two boys to the nearby police station for gambling in school. The police told him to beat the boys. The teacher reported “I cut dey tail right deh in front of de police”.

Guyana has legalised gambling and the Government is building a casino. The children are doing as the adults around them do. Adults who stop beating children realise this contradiction and hypocrisy.

Change in attitude : “If we stop beating we will get violent like America”

There is a great myth that the USA has banned beating of children. Beating is legal in several of the states in the United States. There are other countries with less violence though, who have completely abolished beating children. Guyanese flock to some of these countries like Canada .

In 1947, the British Guiana Legislative Assembly attempted to deal with beating but a majority held that it was okay to beat children. In 2006, the beating children issue came up again.

In the year of the 250th Anniversary of the 1763 Berbice Slave Rebellion and the 190th Anniversary of of the Demerara Uprising, the National Assembly should not be succumbing to the attitudes of the planters that it is okay to beat those who have less power.

Each member of the National Assembly must demonstrate modern leadership in acknowledging their own experiences with being beaten, and with beating children and whether they would want to change.

The National Assembly must demonstrate modern leadership in honouring those who rejected violence and who rebelled against that violence. The National Assembly must honour the children whose potential was damaged by teachers who believed that they had to beat them.

Change in attitude is necessary and is possible. The National Assembly must reject the idea that all Guyanese have inherited the violence of the enslavers and are incapable of teaching children without violence. The National Assembly must reinforce the vision of a Guyana in which adults and children value each other as equally human.

Yours sincerely

Vidyaratha Kissoon

All of us who are concerned about the rights of children, and the violence involving children, should make submissions to the Select Committee. Please do so.



The aforementioned Resolution (Resolution No. 23 of 2012) has been committed to a Special SelectCommittee of the National Assembly.
This Resolution seeks to determine:
(i) the attitude of Guyanese, especially parents and children, to corporal punishment and its possible abolition;

(ii) the attitude of Guyanese, particularly the families of victims, criminologists, and professionals, on capital punishment and its possible abolition; and

(iii) the attitude of Guyanese of any changes in legislative provisions and the criminal code regarding consensual adult same sex relationships and discrimination, perceived or real, against Lesbians, Gays, Bi-Sexual and Transgender persons.

The Committee has begun its work, and is currently examining the attitude of Guyanese, especially parents and children, to corporal punishment and its possible abolition and wishes to receive from members of the public including students, youth groups, professional individuals, and organizations, their views.

The Committee is therefore extending an invitation to members of the public to forward written submissions of their views on this matter not later than Friday, March 15th, 2013.
Only submissions addressing the attitude of Guyanese, especially parents and children, to corporal punishment and its possible abolition are requested at this time.

A subsequent notice will be published when the Committee commences consideration on the other aspects.

Copies of the Resolution can be obtained from the Parliament Office, Public Buildings, Brickdam or via the Parliament Office Web site:

All written submissions can be sent to: or must be addressed to:

The Clerk of the Committee
Special Select Committee On Guyana’s Commitment To
The United Nations Human Rights Council With Regard To The Abolition Of Corporal Punishment In The Schools,
The Abolition Of The Death Penalty And
The Decriminalization Of Consensual Adult Same Sex Relations And Discrimination Against Lesbians, Gays, Bi-Sexual And Transgender Persons
(Resolution No. 23 Of 2012)
Committees Division
Parliament Office
Public Buildings

Taken from Thoughts of a Minibus Traveller 


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