Debate Stirs Over Viral Video of Trinidadian Mother Disciplining Daughter

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A video gone viral of a mother beating her 12-year-old daughter, which was posted on Facebook, was yesterday described as not the first of its kind. However, the mother is now facing varying forms of public criticism for the punishment she meted out to her child.

“I have seen other parents do something similar about a year ago,” said behavioral therapist Wendell de Leon, who is worried it may become a trend in Trinidad and Tobago. He is not in support of corporal punishment of that nature.

“People are seeking to humiliate others in the public domain rather than in the privacy of their homes. They are using the social network as a medium of punishment,” he said.

The six-minute video shows the mother administering some 63 lashes to her daughter with a belt on mostly her arms and back while scolding her about trying to send out an indecent photo of herself on the Internet. The words of the mother are not all completely clear, however, and some web viewers thought the girl was being punished for sending her underwear to a male friend.

“This is a nice show,” the mother says in one segment of the video, looking into the web camera set up in the kitchen.

There is no information on when and from where the video was posted, who did it, or the names of the mother and daughter. But as of  yesterday, there were 636 shares and 122 comments. There were mixed reactions in the comments, some describing it as abuse and others saying the girl “looked for that.”

Several people the T&T Guardian spoke to had similar responses. Asked if he thought it was abuse, de Leon said the aim of punishment for wrongdoing should be to change undesirable behavior.

Corporal punishment at a particular point in a child’s life does not effectively promote behavior change, he said. This “point” would be between the ages of 11 and 13, and beating someone around this age can only foster resentment, defiance and fear, he said.

De Leon, also the president of the National Institute for Promoting Responsible Fathers, said inflicting corporal on someone, and highlighting it on Facebook can only cause embarrassment and humiliation. He said “deeper issues” may have caused the 12-year old to want to advertise herself in that manner on Facebook. “She may be seeking some kind of attention she is not getting.”

The Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development said yesterday it is concerned about the beating of the 12-year girl by her mother. “The Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development has noted with concern the viral video of a mother beating her young daughter for allegedly posting inappropriate photos of herself on the popular social media site Facebook,” a release from the ministry said.

“The ministry wishes to advise parents there are different forms of discipline which should be considered when dealing with children. The ministry strongly advocates the use of non-physical forms of discipline. Physical forms of discipline can lead to harm and unintended consequences, including serious injury, poor mental health or even death.”

The release said the ministry also recognizes that during adolescent years, many children face challenges that may lead to inappropriate behavior, such as the posting of unsuitable images on social media.

“This may be a sign of deeper issues which need to be addressed. Parents are also encouraged to monitor their children’s use of social media and other information technologies, especially as these relate to the posting of inappropriate photographs and videos. This can have serious consequences for the child’s reputation and character.”

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