Autonomy and Resistance

A classrooms with chairs and desks.

Trigger warning: this blog post includes mentions of corporal punishment.

I am Yagna, I’m 24 years old and I live in India. My preferred pronouns are they/them. I'm queer: pandemisexual agender to be exact. I'm hard of hearing and I wear my hearing aid in my right ear. I've recently finished my master's in computer applications.

At school I was slapped on the ear for not knowing Hindi, for not being ‘Indian enough’. I have a profound hearing loss in both ears, making language learning impossible for me. Despite telling lecturers and the principal to exempt me from learning other languages, along with my disability certificate, I was slapped so hard that my hearing aid flew out and broke; the beating came without caution and took me off guard.

According to the World Health Organization's resources on corporal punishment and health, children with disabilities are more likely to be physically punished than those without disabilities. For instance, I was also being punished for being either too quiet or asking a lot of questions. In effect, my quietness or inquisitiveness came from having missed out on crucial information by virtue of being deaf.

Back then I had no idea why I was being punished. I was ashamed to tell my parents about it. Had I known that corporal punishment is a crime and knowing that my parents would have supported me, I would have had a slightly easier childhood.

I had no autonomy, no resistance, and no awareness of my disability or my rights as a child. Even if I had some comprehension about my autonomy and disability, I learnt early on that all my attempts to resist physical abuse and ableism would be inconsequential, because as a child you are perceived to not have autonomy. And as a disabled child, this perception deepens, threatening to silence disabled children. Due to a lack of awareness and accommodations for children with disabilities, corporal punishment is still practiced, even though it is a criminal offense.

There is a lack of awareness among children in schools and homes. I, therefore, request the government and UNICEF enforce awareness of children's rights. I would also like the government and UNICEF to inspect each educational institution, impromptu, to check whether classrooms are inclusive. They can do so by interviewing the children in accessible ways and checking the facilities provided to accommodate children with various disabilities. If this isn’t being done due to insufficient budget to implement accommodations, I would like the government and UNICEF to step in.

Rather than ‘disciplining’ children, YOU should lend a helping hand and accommodate them; doing so will go a long way.