Physical punishment can lead to death : Sarah’s story

Photo: UNICEF DRC Mounet

Many parents use a variety of forms of discipline to make their child understand that his or her behaviour was wrong. These parents are convinced that using forceful methods is the way to bring up their child well. Sometimes these parents even say that they are training their children! When I hear the word “training” I think immediately of animals and not children.

The use of violence can have very negative consequences for children who grow up feeling insecure and afraid. They are impacted for life and sometimes children lose their lives.

Sarah was a 16-year-old girl living in Bunia, capital of Ituri province, located in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Rachel, Sarah’s younger sister, relates the sad story that led to Sarah’s death.

 “My parents divorced a long time ago. Just recently, my mother got married again to another man. At first, we were all very happy! A new life was beginning,” said Rachel. ”When mum fell pregnant a few months later, everything changed for my sister and me. Not one week went by where we were not subjected to corporal punishment.”

With a look of sadness and with tears in her eyes, Rachel continues to explain her sad story to me. “We were punished and beaten for committing the slightest mistake or error. One day, Sarah forgot the food on the fire and the meal burnt. To punish her, mum locked her up and severely whipped her all night. The next morning, Sarah had trouble getting up. A relative, concerned to see Sarah in such a state took my sister to a health centre close to the house. By late afternoon, Sarah had passed away.”

Physical punishment in DRC

Sarah’s case is not an isolated one. Many parents use violence as a means of education. In the DRC, more than 80% of children are subjected to forms of violent discipline, namely corporal punishment or psychological abuse. We want to be brought up to become useful citizens for tomorrow’s society, but we do not want to be raised like animals. Bringing up a child means above all loving the child. We have the right to grow up healthy and maintain our physical integrity as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Excessive punishment leads to excessive consequences

Article written by Joyce Byamungu, responsible for female conditions of the Young Reporters in Ituri

Translated from French by Daphne Wood

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