Physical Punishment in Light of Criminological, Socio-Cultural Diversity and Human Rights Approaches: Ghana and Finland

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Sirkka KOMULAINEN, Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences, Finland
Suleman IBRAHIM, Royal Holloway University of London, United Kingdom
Regarding physical-punishment, this paper aims to examine the obscurity of ‘what is true of all societies and what is true of one society at one point in time and space’ (Bendix, 1963; Nelken, 2010). Based on evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Nordic region – Ghana/Finland, this paper deploys a more critical examination at criminology-claims on physical punishment and delinquency connection. In Sub-Saharan region, physical punishment is a normative and ‘functional’ way of child-rearing (Baokye, 2013), whereas such a practice is socio-legally seen as ‘dysfunctional’ in the global West. Nordic countries have been the first to ban corporal punishment of children in 1970s/1980s (Durrant, 2000).

In criminology, there is a long-standing assumption that physical-punishment is a risk factor in terms of children’s susceptibility to involve in criminality (Leober et al., 2001; Farrington et al., 2012). Yet, mainstream criminology-claims (Anglophones) are reflective of western culture alone (Kalunta-Crumpton, 2004). This paper addresses criminological risk discourses vis-à-vis cultural variations and recent developments in children’s human rights perspectives and childhood sociology. Drawing from insights on cultural variation of social contexts (Hofstede, 1980; Smith, 2004), long-term historical perspective on Nordic and Sub-Saharan regions (e.g McKaskie, 2003) and comparative criminology data (Boakye, 2013; Farrington, 2015), this paper will discuss contextual developments from two regions to tease out what is true of all societies and what is true of one society at one point in time and space. The UN Convention (1989) on children’s rights is discussed in relation to global-sociocultural diversity in child-rearing (Frankenberg et al, 2010).The analysis provides a critical model of physical-punishment and harm linkage in dominant criminological models pointing towards the recognition of socio-cultural diversity. It is suggested that mainstream criminological claims about juvenile delinquency and ‘troubled families’ association are not universalisable (Ibrahim, 2015); yet tensions remain in relation to contemporary children’s rights.