KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The U.N. children's agency on Thursday urged Malaysia to ban corporal punishment in schools, following the death of an 11-year-old boy who was allegedly abused at a religious school.
The boy, Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohamad Gaddafi, was allegedly whipped with a water hose at a private Islamic boarding school last month, and his legs had to be amputated last week due to a bacterial infection. He died Wednesday.
Police have detained the assistant warden, who is accused of whipping the boy and several other students as punishment.
The case has sparked outrage in predominantly Muslim Malaysia, with Prime Minister Najib Razak ordering police to speed up their investigation.
Marianne Clark-Hattingh, the UNICEF representative in Malaysia, called for an end to corporal punishment, which she said statistics showed was preferred form of discipline for children in Malaysia.
"The loss of Mohamad Thaqif to his family, school and society is a stark reminder of the negative consequences of corporal punishment and violence as a form of discipline," she said in a statement.
Hattingh said it's more effective to use non-violent approaches to discipline that teach children right from wrong and how to treat others without inflicting physical and emotional harm.
"We urge the government of Malaysia to ban all forms of corporal punishment against children," she said.
Malaysia is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child but the government has reservations over Article 37, which states that "no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", the statement said.
UNICEF said by lifting its reservations to Article 37 of the convention, Malaysia will show its commitment to putting an end to violence against children in all forms.
Malaysian government officials couldn't be reached for immediate comment. Officials have earlier promised to scrutinize religious schools, which are exempt from many state inspections.