Just A Slap? Argentina's Old Ideas On Child Discipline

Argentina is the patriarchal latecomer after moves by several Latin Americans to adopt norms to outlaw any physical violence inflicted on children.

Maltreatment, not "discipline."
Maltreatment, not "discipline."

BUENOS AIRES — A slap in the face or smack on the head are the kind of gestures many parents in Argentina still use to "discipline" their children. Some are convinced it is the best way to raise a child, and others just do it, without even giving it any thought.

The United Nation's child protection agency UNICEF reports that a quarter of all parents around the world admit to having used such methods. The Global Movement for Children in Latin America and the Caribbean sees adult-on-child violence as a regional scourge, and the UN has recommended specific laws against all forms of child maltreatment.

Costa Rica, Venezuela, Uruguay and Honduras already have instituted such norms. Brazil recently adhered to them as well. But meanwhile, Argentina is still working on them. Why?

Argentine parents of all socio-economic and educational backgrounds continue, even today, to see hitting their children as part of their day-to-day education. The kid won't clear his or her toys, eat, bathe or sleep. That may first to lead to shouting, which often winds up with some form of physical reaction.

"Physical punishment as part of the repertoire of educational conducts has become natural," says Fernanda Tarica, a physician and head of the NGO Shalom Bait, which fights domestic violence. "What we need to change is the belief system that remains rooted in society. Patriarchal authority continues and children are still seen as something to be controlled or indoctrinated. In that context, many continue to view physical punishment as legitimate."

Tarica clarifies that blows teach children nothing, except to hit someone else. "It seems effective, but only immediately. The punished child is inhibited by being afraid."

Child maltreatment is a violation of the most basic rights of children and teenagers. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, now 25 years old, requires signatories to "take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation including sexual abuse."

In 2006, the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child again asked member states to forbid all forms of physical punishment and degrading treatment against children. Yet children continue to suffer mistreatment in places where they are supposed to be protected, namely at home and at school.

Scars and worse

A vigorous beating is not the only form of maltreatment. Constant shouting, denigration and sustained indifference can also have devastating effects.

"There are three main forms of child maltreatment: physical, emotional or psychological, or through neglect or abandonment. The various forms of abuse produce lasting physical and emotional scars, death or serious harm in some form," states UNICEF's regional report on violence on children and teenagers.

Argentina has Law 26.061 for the Protection of Children. Article Nine of that law recognizes the right of children to dignity and physical integrity, and sets out the duties of state organs and persons informed of situations of abuse. It expressly forbids corporal punishment even without provoking visible lesions.

"But the UN wants specific laws," says Diana Conti, the legislator who proposed last year a bill to ban corporal punishment on children and teenagers. It is currently in the parliament's Family Committee.

She told Clarín that the bill would forbid "the father, mother, family members, legal representatives, persons charged with educating or caring for children and teenagers of either sex, persons working in social, educational or health services in the public and private spheres, or any person given custody, of a child or teenager of either sex, from utilizing corporal punishment or any act that causes physical, spiritual or psychological harm or degradation in any conceivable form."

Article 647 of the Conti bill, which would amend the Argentine Civil Code and is partly approved in the Senate, again specifically disallows corporal punishment of children and teenagers.

María Elena Naddeo, an official of the Buenos Aires ombudsman's office, says new legislative initatives follow UN recommendations "because there is a lot of physical abuse" in spite of existing laws.

For specific prohibitions she says, "there must be penalties, and there will be."

Nora Schulman, the head of CASACIDN, an organization that verifies implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, says "it is very important for countries to start fighting physical violence against children as state policy. Corporal punishment against children remains invisible because it usually happens in private and there are no official statistics."

Still she says, 80% of cases taken to the ombudsman's office and child shelters are "for physical violence. These are stories that generally repeat themselves from generation to generation. It has to be stopped now, during childhood, to ensure a less violent society."

Fernanda Tarica notes that "we want to teach them not to shout or hit and we do it by shouting and hitting them. And there is nobody to punish us because nobody sees it. It's total impunity and the double standards of adults."

We all know limits are healthy and necessary — and that goes for adults too.

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The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council

Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire

The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke

During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press

Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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