Jordanian MP calls for 'beating children' in protest against child rights law

Jordanian MP calls for 'beating children' in protest against child rights law
The MP said corporal punishment in school could help the development of the current generation.
3 min read
22 September, 2022
The Law on the Rights of the Child would give children in Jordan a host of new protections and rights. [Getty]

A Jordanian MP sparked controversy this week after calling for teachers to use corporal punishment against children as a last resort, saying it helped his own development and could help the current generation.

The MP — Suleiman Abu Yehya — said that he gives any teacher permission to beat his children and that a lack of corporal punishment had led youth to "start dealing drugs, half of them right on the doorstep of schools."

Abu Yehya's comments came as part of a speech against the Law on the Rights of the Child, which passed the lower House of Parliament on Monday and is awaiting approval in the upper house.

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A number of MPs rejected Abu Yehya's comments and objected to the use of corporal punishment in schools.

"We have been beaten and we want to ensure that our children and grandchildren are not being beaten. We reject any corporal punishments, whether light or otherwise, in schools," MP Saleh al-Armouti told local paper al-Ghad.

The Children Rights law codifies a host of protections for children, including the right to education, the ability for teachers and other responsible adults to report abuse, preventing corporal punishment in schools, and guaruntees health care for all children in Jordan.

Passage through the lower house was a victory for civil society activists who have been pushing for the adoption of the law since first drafting it in 1998. Proponents of the law have said it could prevent a host of problems affecting children in Jordan, including underage marriage, school absenteeism and abuse.

According to a 2019 UNICEF study, 74.6 percent of children in Jordan have experienced some form of physical violence.

The law faced stiff opposition from the Islamist and conservative blocs of parliament, who saw it as a way of degrading 'family values' and as an imposition of Western values. One Jordanian preacher said that the law was a western-backed attempt to get the new generation to abandon children and to leave Jordan.

"The provisions of the proposed law will give children great power and freedom that may push them to insult their parents, and put their interests at risk, leading to the dismantling of families," Dua'a Jaber, a Jordanian MP from the Muslim Brotherhood-associated Islah bloc, told The New Arab.

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Some MPs also saw the law as redundant, arguing that the existing laws in Jordan and international conventions it has signed, provided enough protections for children.

"The Jordanian Personal Status Law, which is derived from Islamic Sharia, expressly stipulates the right of the child to a stable environment, education and health. It is sufficient to guarantee these rights, which are also included in the Jordanian constitution," Jaber said.

Advocates for the law, however, have said that the current lack of a comprehensive protection framework means that some children fall through the cracks.

Of Jordan's 10 million or so residents, almost a third are under the age of 15.