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‘It’s a reality:’ 13 percent of Jordanian children experience severe physical punishment

SIGI calls for end to Penal Code Article 62

The research team defined ‘severe physical punishment’ as hitting or slapping the child in the face, head, or ears, and repeatedly hitting the child harshly. The study also found that men tend to comm
The research team defined ‘severe physical punishment’ as hitting or slapping the child in the face, head, or ears, and repeatedly hitting the child harshly. The study also found that men tend to commit more violent punishments against children as compared to women. (Photo: Shutterstock)
AMMAN — Over one in ten children in Jordan experience ‘severe physical punishment’, according to new research from Tadamon, also known as the Sisterhood is Global Institute.اضافة اعلان

The research team defined ‘severe physical punishment’ as hitting or slapping the child in the face, head, or ears, and repeatedly hitting the child harshly. The study also found that men tend to commit more violent punishments against children as compared to women. It noted that from the beginning of 2021 up until June 17, there were nine domestic murders in the Kingdom.

The organization is calling for an end to Article 62 of the Jordanian Penal Code, which permits parents to use physical punishment against children.

“Family murders will continue and may even increase in frequency, as long as our legislation includes mitigating excuses for perpetrators of crimes under the pretext of ‘honor’ and as long as the law permits disciplinary beating of children,” reads the report.

SIGI’s report builds on the data collected by the Demographic and Health Survey 2017-2018, which found that around one in six children between the ages of one and fourteen had experienced any form of physical punishment in the twelve months prior to the survey.

Violence against children is “a fact, it’s a reality,” said psychiatrist Abdullah Abu Adass in an interview with Jordan News. He mentioned that there are “a lot of unreported cases” of such violence. “I think we have a problem with reporting… We may have a lot of cases that are hidden under the norms and values. (They’re) not reported to the authorities.”

Adass pointed to global estimates that up to a billion of children between the ages of five and sixteen have experienced some form of violence against children, which includes “physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, neglect, and maltreatment.”

“The first important one that we can see in Jordan is the maltreatment, which includes the violent punishment of children,” he said. “We can also see cases of bullying, including cyberbullying.” Adass added that there have even been cases of suicide in Jordan committed by survivors of abuse and violence.

Violence has ‘intensified’
The call from SIGI comes as several sources have indicated a rise in violence against children during the pressures of the pandemic.
According to a socioeconomic assessment conducted by UNICEF during the summer of 2020, physical violence against children increased among almost two-thirds (65 percent) of households benefiting from UNICEF’s assistance during the COVID-19 lockdown. Calls to the national child protection helpline have also increased by a third during the pandemic, according to UNICEF.

“Domestic violence during the pandemic has intensified,” said Rasheed Rousan, a representative for the Jordan River Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on child safety and community empowerment, in an interview with Jordan News. During the lockdown in particular, “victims preferred to keep silent, or to wait longer before asking for help, so violence continued to escalate.”
Likewise, “The problem is reporting,” said Adass. “We need to have more formal and informal ways of reporting, that keeps the privacy of people who report such cases.”

“Psychological violence is always invisible,” said Mariyampillai Mariyaselvam, UNICEF’s chief of child protection, in a video interview with Jordan News. This can make psychological violence more difficult to detect and thus more difficult to prevent.

UNICEF spoke of a “cultural silence” around reporting violence. There is a national child helpline through which parents and children alike can report violence, as well as an online reporting system in schools. However, fear of repercussions and cultural norms can prevent individuals from reporting violence. “We know that there are underreported cases, and it is very hard to track how many,” Mariyaselvam said.

Psychological damage
Adass emphasized the psychological impact of violence against children. “A lot of cases of antisocial behavior in adults directly happens as a result of violence in early childhood,” he said.

He also pointed out that several risk factors, such as disability and mental health challenges, poverty, high unemployment, and access to firearms in the family, can make children more at risk of violence.

“The majority of physically and emotionally abused and neglected children served by JRF often suffered from economic challenges,” said Rousan.

The positive side to working on violence against children, according to Adass, is that “it’s a preventable issue.” He called for Jordan to adhere more closely to the international mandates for child protection, “taking into account the norms and values in Jordan.”

For Adass, preventing violence against children is important not just for the children themselves but also for society at large. “We cannot speak about a stable community unless we speak about the entities that may contribute to (instability),” he said. Experiencing violence is “a major psychological burden. Violence contributes also to cases of absence from work, a major factor for the economic burdens that we may have.”

Violence “cannot be overcome overnight,” said Mariyaselvam. “We still have a long way to go when it comes to ending and reducing the violence in society.”

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