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History of Corporal Punishment

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 2822 words Published: 20th Sep 2021

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Corporal or bodily punishment is the deliberate use of force anticipated to cause pain or harm for correction, discipline, changing bad behavior or in sole faith of bringing up the child. This physical harm can be caused by hitting, whipping, beheading, stoning, Cutting off limbs, burning and many other different means. The phrase usually refers to systematically striking the suspect with an implement, whether in legal, family or educational settings. Most of the times the imposed judgment tends to inflict a manner of bodily pain upon the suspects without killing them. Since medieval times, corporal punishment was commonly used in areas that did not warrant capital punishment, exile or banishment. Most opponents of these punishments are greatly concerned of the widespread practice and the brutality with which this technique is repeatedly inflicted. Corporal punishment is also used to mean a wide range of punishments moving from forced labor, amputation and torture. This punishment comes in a wide variety of names, some of which are generic and others shows the extent of punishment and severity of injuries sustained. These names include” spanking, caning, swatting and paddling”. In this paper, the mentioned terms are literally used to mean a general term for corporal punishment (Key Events in the Debate over Corporal Punishment, 2006).

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The gradual growth of humanitarian ideals has led to abandonment of this practice, and today in the west it has entirely been replaced with life imprisonment and penalties. Bodily harm or corporal punishment continues to be practiced in correctional facilities of many countries. In some Middle East and Asian countries, amputation and beheading remain prescribed punishments. This vice is currently prohibited by several international human rights conventions. Over years, governments and parents have deliberately and lovingly administered corporal punishment with true desire of producing individuals who are democratic and peace loving. In this paper I would like to discuss the influence brought about corporal punishment, how it originated, and effects it has on the victims (Who decides what’s right

History of Corporal Punishment

Historically, physical punishment was generally used in the early times of Moses, in laws of Sparta, Troy, Athens, and many other Greek states. It was also practiced in medieval Christian church traditions especially in Judaism. Currently it’s practiced in many countries of the world and remains in the judicial systems of some European communities. Even if the history of corporal punishment is not certain, the barbaric practice was confirmed as early as the 11th century in ancient Israel and it was definitely practiced in conventional civilizations used by Egypt, Troy, Sparta, Rome and Greek. In those times, the punishment was mainly focused on legal and educational settings. In early Europe, corporal punishment was promoted by manners of the early church in the respect to the human body. Since the judicial and education setting were attached to the church, this had a drastic influence on the implementation of corporal punishment. Nonetheless, corporal punishment in those medieval times was criticized by Archbishop of Canterbury, philosophers like john Locke and catholic priests (Who decides what’s right, 2001).

From the late 15th century, new developments in corporal punishment started to emerge. Legal sentences turned into open spectacles, where suspects were punished openly to deter others from committing related offences. In early 18th century, the whole idea of corporal punishment was attacked from various quarters and it was seen as ineffective method of correcting bad behaviors. Most people argued in unison that punishment of any kind should focus on correction and not retribution. The end effects of these ideas led to slight decline in the use of corporal punishment. In England the use of legal corporal punishment reduced in early 20th century and it was finally eradicated altogether in June 1948.Even if the practice of corporal punishment as been eradicated in most countries, in some Asian and Middle East countries it is still preserved as a judicial sanction (Corporal Punishment Abroad, 1999).

Corporal Punishment in Modern society

In the modern society, corporal punishment stands out as ordinary method of disciplining and dealing with criminals and unruly children. Even though it has been banned in some European countries and states, most judicial systems allows people to be disciplined whenever they commit unwarranted crimes and when a reasonable distinction between the punishment and abuse is accessed. Physical or corporal punishment is distinguished from other punishments in that the damages are inflicted on somebody’s body. It generally occurs as a technique of physical punishment for crimes and as a way to discipline bad behavior in the modern society, corporal punishment is widespread and it’s mainly divided into three unique classes:

  • Domestic corporal punishment-found within family settings and mostly involves women and children being punished by spouses, guardians, parents or family members.
  • Educational corporal punishment-found in educational settings and involves punishments of students within schools by teachers and school management.
  • Judicial or legal corporal punishment-generally involves a criminal sentence brought about by the court of law and directly related to prison physical punishment.

Domestic corporal punishment found within family settings is generally done under the phrase “spare the rod and spoil the child”. It involves slapping, whipping or spanking the child. In most European countries, domestic physical punishments it’s outlawed while in most African countries and some states of the United States of America are legal. Educational corporal punishment found in educational settings involves punishments of students within schools by teachers and school administrators. Students here are punished for misbehaviors or abuse of school rules and regulations. Students are either slapped or whipped in some cases, or paddled. Corporal punishment used to be common in education settings in many parts of the globe, but in modern years it has been banned in virtually all of European countries, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, and other small countries. In some parts of Africa and Asia it remains prevalent. Analytically, corporal punishment is most rampant among male students compared to the female students and it’s more severe to males. Judicial or legal corporal punishment involves prescribed application of caning, whipping and strapping as an order from the courts. These punishments are common in African, Asian and Middle East countries. Most of countries with Islamic sharia laws employ ranges of these corporal punishments. As mentioned above, there are three settings in which corporal punishment is administered. Our focus in this paper will be in the judicial system and educational system. These settings commonly share similar unique characteristics that set them aside from other types of corporal punishment.

Under extreme circumstances, Corporal Punishment is an effective method of punishing many people. It is a very adequate technique of keeping lots of the populace under control. It is mostly used as a caution to show the nation the penalty behind some of the dealings that certain citizens choose to execute.

Is Corporal Punishment Abuse or Discipline?

Antagonists of corporal punishment are precisely critical of its extensive practice and the brutality with which it is imposed. In many ways, corporal punishment can be referred as a gross abuse of fundamental human rights. Many people argue that it’s a good way of discouraging bad behaviors and crimes in the society but proportionally, the damage inflicted on somebody’s body is not relative to crime committed. It’s at times impossible for people to balance the concept of abuse and discipline. The subject of the use of corporal punishment in the society appears to be extremely contentious, with extremists analyzing both concepts of the continuum. Both abuse and discipline have a reasonable distinction and a good correction method can turn to abuse when overdone. When discipline results to bodily harm or affect the emotional level of a child or citizens, then it escalates into battering which is abuse. Obviously there are occasions of general abuse and of offensive bodily punishment. This claim is inadequate to show even a connection between corporal punishment and abuse. Scientific research into probable connections between abuse and corporal punishment has not been conclusive so far. The fact that judicial corporal punishments cause bodily harm, it does not demand that punishment should never be imposed by anybody. If it has such power, then the system should not be blamed if individual supposed to administer the punishment exceeds their powers. It’s critical and very difficult if we try to condemn the offensive but not, the nonoffensive use of corporal punishment. For this technique to be valued and respected, it should follow the due course of the law, it should bring bodily pain without injury, it should not discriminate people in terms of gender and religion and there should be appropriate timing when administering the punishment so that the victim would be emotionally prepared. Delayed punishment allows the due process of law to be followed regardless of the legal term “justice delayed is justice denied” (Key Events in the Debate over Corporal Punishment, 2006).

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Corporal punishment in individual countries

Corporal punishment is established many countries of the world and it’s practiced with intention of punishing those affiliates of society who have committed atrocious crimes against fellow citizens and laws of the land. In some times it’s used to give families of victims a sense of tranquility. Various types of corporal penalty subsist around the globe and in mostly related to the religion and social cultures of the nation. In Afghanistan- corporal punishment was widespread during the Taliban reign from 1996 to 2002.Being an Islamic state, the sharia laws ordered punishments notably to all criminal offences. Flogging is the most widely used punishment here and are generally intended to be embarrassing rather than painful. Literally, at the moment the Whole criminal and Justice System of Afghanistan seems to be rotten and most of these punishments are being performed without proper legal proceedings. Apart from the courts, teachers are also attempting to affirm their power over students by punishing them. This is widespread across the country and most of the times leave students badly injured. Reports of students being caned, slapped, punched and kicked as now become a daily routine. The current government claims it’s trying to curb the vice but this has not been forthcoming as many reporters still publish stories of students being hospitalized from injuries sustained in schools. In addition to floggings, Saudi Arabia on its part uses cutting off limbs, stoning and mutilations of body parts as a technique of corporal punishment. In normal circumstances such punishment are highly contentious and beastly. In early years corporal punishment involved caning, slapping and flogging. But of late physical punishment like mutilations have been introduced via the sharia laws. Most British colonies like Botswana, Nigeria, Malaysia, and Tanzania also employ judicial whippings and caning for a variety of offences. These punishments are more serious in Islamic countries like the ones mentioned above and others that practice Islamic sharia laws. Other countries that have practiced judicial corporal punishments include Germany, Korea, Sweden, China, state of Delaware in United States of America, Burma and Vietnam.

According to research, currently most industrialized countries have barred corporal punishment in their society. Some countries have gone a step further in outlawing any form of bodily harm by state organs, including the judicial system. Global Convention on Human Rights has made a treaty that force member countries to protect criminals and other groups from physical attack and abuses coming as a result of corporal punishments (Who decides what’s right,2001).

Pros and cons of corporal punishment

In most cases, individuals who oppose corporal punishment do so on sole foundation of single unwarranted arguments. Usually they claim many reasons to support their beliefs. Most of the times they do not support their arguments on a particular theory or philosophy. Previously, many People in the world thought that the best and cheap way to punish criminals was use of physical force. This technique is meant to infringe pain to someone by flogging, whipping, caning, hitting or beating them. The most important reason of corporal punishment is to reprimand someone for committing crime and to educate people to learn from their previous mistakes. In general, corporal punishment has its pros and cons. Its supporters claim it offers advantages over other punishments in that it is fast to implement, cheap and discourages rowdiness experienced in some judicial systems. Advocates of this punishment also argue it’s cost effective in that it reduces prison congestion hence promote development of the prison facilities. This approach promotes easier reincorporation of the suspected criminals back into the society since they are not imprisoned and most of the times the infringed wounds heals. There are greater chances of avoiding such crimes and less recidivism. Supporters of the corporal punishment in children, whilst accepting corporal punishment results to child abuse, most of them claim when properly managed it can be a the most successful technique of disciplining unruly children (Corporal Punishment Cessation ,1999). Research by Harvard university shows that most American families support minimal application of corporal punishment. Use of corporal punishment makes people appreciate social norms and understand doing something wrong result in one getting hurt (pain) and suffering. As many citizens know the consequence of disobedience the less the crimes there would be. This punishment has numerous unfavorable psychological effects like depression, anxiety, is degrading, rigidity, teaches the wrong lesson, and stems up sexual deviance. Opponents of this punishment claim that any form of bodily harm or violence is definitively abusive. corporal punishment result to lack of trust to those in authority and makes one hate the systems and organs infringing those pains (Applied psychology,1978). People who are bodily disciplined are most likely to grow up appreciative of it and using it to resolve interpersonal conflicts.In term of domestic and school corporal punishment, it leads to obliteration of trust bonds and finally makes a child grow shy, violent bitter and insecure. These abuses and beatings lower their self-esteem, and promote aggression and fury without reducing bad behaviors the ones the child was being punished for. Some antagonists of corporal punishment argues that this method is not effective in eliminating crime and unruly behaviors in that it does not deter those punished from repeating similar crimes and mistakes.

Unjust corporal punishment can be prevented by providing systems that safeguards the rights of this people. To be effective, there could be restrictions on the crimes for which the suspects can be punished, the materials used to inflict the punishment, the severity of the strokes and the site in the body where the punishment would be performed. Punishment within schools and families are less easily monitored, so proper preventative measures should be taken to avoid injuries. In some instances external monitoring is effective to counter check if one is doing it right or wrong (Davenport, 2003).


In my own opinion, I don’t support the use of corporal punishment even if this paper has proved it not always immoral to administer one. Corporal punishment is a horrible practice, even if justified; it should not be cheerfully embraced. Other effective methods can be coined to treat bad behavior and crime in the society as an option to corporal punishment. Currently, corporal or physical punishment has been outlawed in the majority of the global states since many people who administer them abuse it. After bad legal battles arise, the governments systems are put into disrepute. In my conclusion I can comfortably say there are many other ways of dealing with criminals and unruly children and corporal punishment is not one of them.


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