By now you already know I’m against all forms of violence in society. I have been very vocal about those perpetrated against women and girls in particular, because as Maya Angelou put it, “I’ve been female for a long time now. It would be stupid not to be on my own side.” My younger brother Kyle while telling me how his day was yesterday was excited to report how yesterday’s paper had a whole tribute kind of column about feminism (in his words, “ for lack of a better word”) and how he wished I could read it with him. Kyle is nineteen and has first-hand experience with my daily rants as he has heard it all for most of his life.
Today, however, let’s talk about a different more under-discussed nature of violence; the one perpetrated against children by step parents. The family is believed sacred and beyond the law in most societies, in that, matters like domestic violence are expected to be resolved within the family unit. To understand where I am coming from with this, you have to know I have been brought up in the extended family set-up pretty much most of my life. So I really have no experience with a father figure growing up, so please feel free to weigh in and correct my thought process anytime.
According to the Bible, Proverbs 13:24, “Spare the rod, spoil the child”. This is probably the most famous sacred verse in the Bible quoted in the African household. It usually comes before the weapon of choice is selected, between the mwiko , belt or slippers. Lord knows how much of the mwiko I saw. Looking back now I don’t know why it was ever necessary, I have always considered myself one of the good ones. Some would however argue it was because of the rod, lol thanks so much early missionaries and Solomon. (author of the book of proverbs)
My query with this, and eventual disregard and indifference with this method of parenting is, what and where are the limits? Are they stipulated? This verse basically gives parents free reign over children, they might as well be called dictators for all it’s worth. Does the Bible written all those years ago realize in this day and age, this very verse is being used by step parents to justify violence? Where is the line drawn between discipline, punishment and full-blown violence?
He is sixteen years old. At the prime of puberty and adolescence but the most responsible caring young man I have met at that age. The step father somewhere around thirty two years old, poor and stressed. The young adolescent skips a simple house chore to hang out with his friends for about half an hour. We all know what he comes back to when he gets home right? A rod. Wrong. Not a rod. Punches. Blows. Kicks. Slaps. Shoves. It’s smack down season. On the face, the head, the whole body. Poor little guy takes it crying out for his mother, who is silent to his cries and desperate pleas. He is sixteen. Just sixteen.