Cabinet spent considerable time discussing the need to end corporal punishment within schools and, possibly, homes as well. While there was no consensus among the 12 members, the Cabinet agreed that consultations will continue, and experts are to be heard as the Cabinet seeks to reach a consensus. During Cabinet discussions on the matter the Chairperson of the Child Justice Board and a Magistrate in the country’s Court system were invited to make a presentation. The Magistrate shared a paper that was prepared by her, pointing out that Antigua and Barbuda have signed and ratified the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which speaks to ending punishment of children by inflicting pain on the child. The Magistrate quoted several officials who expressed differing points of view on the subject, publicly, including the current Minister of Education, and a former Director of Education with divergent views. The religious intonement that speaks to “sparing the rod” was significantly challenged by members who are themselves fathers; and it was upheld by other members who believed that the biblical expression ought to still be invoked. Notwithstanding their differing views, the Magistrate pointed out that when treaties and conventions are ratified by the Parliament, they become the law of Antigua and Barbuda. The Education Act which stipulates how corporal punishment is to be administered in schools, conflicts with the adopted treaties and conventions that seek to end corporal punishment as a means of correction; it also conflicts with the Child Justice Act which outlaw’s corporal punishment of children. The courts will be compelled to provide protection to children under the law, should this issue be brought before the Magistracy or the High Court.
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