Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I will beat you

There are many aspects of Cameroonian culture and life we have had to learn to accept or get along with. These include lateness, disregard for personal property, being ripped off for being white, being told what they think you want to hear rather than the truth and using children as slaves.

However there is one part of Cameroonian life we find very hard to cope with, we can not even think of conforming to it. This is the beating of children. Often you hear a mother, father, grandparent, aunt or uncle shouting 'I will beat you' to the child. This is not an empty threat, they mean it and if the child continues doing what ever it was doing (which mostly is doing what kids do) they will indeed get beaten. This may be a slap around the thigh or bum or can involve whipping of the hands or legs. Then afterwards the child will get told to stop crying because they are making too much noise.

We have found this very hard to cope with, watching a child being beaten is not nice. There is nothing we can do, we have tried to tell people it is not correct but they do not agree. Answers include 'I was beaten as a child', 'a child will not learn unless he/she is beaten' and 'it is part of life in Africa, you Europeans do not understand'. Because it is accepted by everyone the beating will continue. Many times it is for something very minor but the adult is having a bad day or even something that may not be the child's fault but they are too scared to answer back so take the beating.

Many children live with Aunts and Uncles in order for them to go to school, or because their parents cannot afford to feed them. It is these children or come off worse in the beatings and in many other parts of family life. The parents will favour their own children before their extended family that they possibly begrudgingly care for. We often hear on the radio how these children run away because they just cannot cope living in that house any longer. And the way many are treated, I do not blame them.

I do not have children so maybe I should not judge. I will not beat my children when I do have some though I am sure. I expect there will be times when I want to beat them but I will resist and find another form of punishment.


Mary said...

When you get home, see if you can rent "Sisters in Law," a documentary about women attorneys and judges in Cameroon -- I believe in Douala. One of the cases they focus on involves a small girl who ran away from her "aunt" because she was frequently beaten. It is very interesting.

Mum and dad said...

The TV prog 'Sisters in Law' is the one we taped and are keeping for you. Glenys and Ted want to borrow it as well.

Bets said...

I agree with you Heather.