Letters: Culture cannot trump the welfare of a child

These letters appear in the 11 June edition of The Independent

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Mrs Justice Pauffley is wrong when she says cultural allowances should be made in a case involving the physical chastisement of an eight-year-old boy of Indian background. This sends the wrong signal about the physical integrity of the child.

Given the level of violence used on the boy’s mother in this litigation, the court should be particularly concerned about the welfare of the child, and child protection professionals are correct to register their dissent.

Children’s rights advocates worked tirelessly in the 1980s to challenge the use of physical chastisement in schools in the UK, and through the influence of the European Court of Human Rights this practice was made illegal in all schools, independent or state-funded, and in all churches, synagogues, mosques and places where children are educated.

Similarly, the Council of Europe has for years condemned the use of violence in the home. Indeed, some of the worst child abuse cases in the UK have been as a result of “corporal punishment gone wrong”.

At a time when children in Scandinavia and elsewhere enjoy greater protection from physical abuse in the home, a member of the judiciary urges making allowances for cultural difference. All children deserve protection from abusive parents regardless of their heritage or the colour of their skin.

Marie Parker- Jenkins
Professor of Education
University of Limerick


As an equality and diversity professional who worked in the NHS in London over a number of years, I can tell you very clearly that the law of the land trumps culture every time (“Make cultural allowances for abuse”, says judge”, 10 June). You cannot have it any other way.

If a person wants to come here they have to sign up to respecting the law of the land. If they don’t want to, they must go to a country whose laws they will respect. It really is that simple.

Richard Bryant-Jefferies
Epsom, Surrey


GM threat to small farmers everywhere

Ex-Greenpeace director Stephen Tindale is missing the point when he argues that campaigning groups are scaremongering about GM food (9 June). We don’t oppose GM because we believe it is a danger to health, but because it extends corporate control over the food system in a way that is damaging to small-scale farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Patented GM seed is expensive, and needs to be purchased every year, while traditional strains can be replanted year after year for no cost to the farmer. Global Justice Now is working with groups in Ghana which are opposing new laws on GM seeds for precisely this reason.

Once you’ve planted GM seed, you’re locked into the system and it can be more or less impossible to revert to traditional methods. GM food maybe safe to eat, but it is quite definitely not safe to plant for farmers who end up paying the world’s richest corporations so much money for patented seed that they are trapped in poverty.

Alex Scrivener
Policy Officer, Global Justice Now, London SW9


Miliband clones fight for Labour leadership

I have been a Labour supporter all my life and I greet the forthcoming Labour leadership election with a mixture of disbelief and disdain.

Disbelief in that the candidates look like Miliband clones. People suggest that we should feel sorry for Ed Miliband, I disagree. It was made very clear to him way before the election that voters could not relate to him. I am sure that if he believed in the good of the party, and the country, he would have recognised this and stepped aside for someone else. He selfishly did not.

My disdain is based on the fact that these people use the word Labour to describe their party. They would be better calling themselves “the Dinner Party” as they come across as Oxbridge luvvies, who sit around in their out of touch groups, piously espousing social democracy. Is it any wonder that ordinary people have lost faith?

The ordinary man and woman in the street want to live in a tolerant society where they and their children have equal opportunities to fulfil their potential. This sadly is becoming more difficult.

Glyn Scott
Barry, Vale of Glamorgan


“If labour doesn’t speak for the poor, who will?’ says the headline on your Letters page (9 June).

We though about that here, and voted accordingly: SNP 56, Labour 1, Tories 1, Lib Dems 1 ... for the time being.

Selma Rahman


E-cig curb: the Welsh have got it right

It would seem that the proposal to ban e-cigarettes in public spaces is just too subtle for its critics to comprehend. Indeed, the views you express (editorial, 10 June) could well have been written by the e-cigarette industry.

What the legislation would do is change social norms of behaviour, increasing awareness of how the actions of individuals impact on others. Seeing other people sucking on a tube in their mouths is not a pretty sight when you are trying to enjoy a meal in a restaurant. And what about hospitals? Sending a message that inhaling chemicals in public is OK is hardly consistent with encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

And as for your advice that society should be trusted to take care of itself, perhaps we should extend this principle to fly-tipping and the abolition of speed limits.

The Welsh Assembly should be applauded for taking what should be seen as a socially responsible action, not criticised for it.

Peter Lewis


The missed chance for fair voting

I agree with Ray Love (letter, 8 June) that we’ll miss the restraining influence of the Liberal Democrats in power and even regret their absence. However, as a Lib Dem voter turned Green, let me explain why it is hard to feel responsible for the outcome of the 2015 election – or indeed any other – as I live in a “safe seat”, that of David Cameron.

The Liberal Democrats had an opportunity in 2010 to make my vote as useful as a vote in a more marginal constituency by promoting proportional representation, which had appeared to be a key Lib Dem policy throughout their history. They failed to take that opportunity, and for that I felt let down. So I supported a party which does promote PR.

I don’t think that PR would have produced another Con/Lib Dem coalition, but I do think it would have produced a government and parliament with more legitimacy, more widespread respect and greater accountability to the whole electorate than this government by the 1 per cent for the 1 per cent.

David Bowman
Long Hanborough, Oxfordshire


Tony Somers (letter, 10 June) defends Nick Clegg’s decision to enter coalition with Cameron rather than Labour. He says: “Labour plus Lib Dem seats fewer than Tories”.

Well, not quite. Labour (258 seats) plus Lib Dem (57) would have had a majority of 9 over the Conservatives (306). That “ministerial limousine” was obviously a little too tempting after all.

Gerard Bell
Sunninghill, Berkshire


Pay rise for privileged MPs

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority stands by its recommendation of a one-off hike in MPs’ salaries on the grounds that, as an independent body, its view is unbiased.

Sadly the authority fails to acknowledge that its board comprises a skewed population. Recommendations on MPs’ salaries must be made by a committee which represents a range of the electorate; and the median income of committee members should equal the national median income.

At present, privileged individuals recommend inequitable rewards for other privileged individuals.

James Hunt


Much of the acrimony surrounding MPs’ pay could be avoided by putting the issue to the electorate. The 27th amendment to the US Constitution states that laws relating to congressional salary cannot be implemented until after a subsequent election. Candidates must explain to their constituents why they think a pay rise is deserved.

Iain Salisbury


Ancient musical technology

In your history of recorded sound (3 June), you credit Emile Berliner with the introduction of vinyl to replace shellac in the manufacture of records. Although Berliner was responsible for the replacement of cylinder recordings with discs, vinyl didn’t start to be used until after his death. 

My father had a large collection of shellac 78s from the Thirties and Forties. It was only with the introduction of the long-play record after the Second World War that vinyl took hold.

Paul Dormer