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Caning also refers to a method of weaving chair seats and other furniture. See Caning (furniture)

Caning is a physical punishment (see that article for generalities and alternatives) consisting of a beating with a cane, generally applied on the bare or clad buttocks (see spanking), shoulders, hand(s) (palm, rarely knuckles) or even the soles of the feet (see falaka).

It was a common punishment in many parts of Asia and Europe and several European colonies in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, but has now been banned in most countries. It is often considered a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment as meant by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, but remains legal in numerous nations.


[edit] Judicial and educational uses

Caning was practiced as a judicial punishment for juveniles but was best known as a method of educational discipline in schools or at home. The western use of the cane dates principally to the late nineteenth century, when educationalists sought to replace birching - which is only effective if applied to the bare flesh - with a form of punishment more suitable to contemporary sensibilities. The cane, if applied expertly, transmits much pain even through layers of clothing.

Judicial caning

Judicial caning, carried out with a long rattan rod and generally much more severe than the canings given in schools, was a feature of some colonial judicial systems, and in some cases still is post-independence, particularly in East Asia and some African countries. The practice is still retained in Malaysia and Brunei (but not Thailand and in Indonesia was only reintroduced in the special case of Aceh, on Sumatra, which since its 2005 autonomy has introduced a form of shariah, applying the cane to the clothed upper back with Muslim modesty). African countries still using judicial caning include Botswana, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda and (for juvenile offenders only) Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Until recent years it was also frequently applied in Kenya and South Africa. In Singapore, healthy male criminals under 50 years of age can be sentenced to a maximum of 24 strokes of the rotan (rattan) cane on the bare buttocks; the punishment is mandatory for over 40 offenses, mostly violent or sexual crimes, but also some immigration violations, drug violations, and acts of vandalism. It is also imposed for certain breaches of prison rules. Caning in Singapore is particularly severe and can leave permanent scars on the recipient. The punishment is also applied, regardless of controversy in and void interventions from the West, to foreigners, as under intense media attention in Singapore in 1994 to Michael P. Fay, an American student who had vandalised several automobiles, and in the UAE in 1996 to Sarah Balabagan, a Filipina maid convicted of homicide.

Caning is also a more severe but not uncommon sadomasochistic practice. In nineteenth century France the practice was dubbed "The English Vice", as it was believed that the English, in particular, derived sexual pleasure from corporal punishment. This term is still in occasional use.

Educational caning

The frequency and severity of canings in educational settings are often determined by the written rules or unwritten traditions of the school. For example, in some schools corporal punishment was administered solely by the head teacher, but in many English private schools authority to punish was also given to certain senior students (often called prefects). A typical punishment in an English elementary school in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century might consist of one or two strokes on the hand. In many secondary schools in England and Wales it was in use, mainly for boys and only very rarely for girls, until the early 1980s; in this setting it was more often administered to the clothed buttocks, usually with a maximum of six strokes (known as "six of the best").

[edit] Cane types

Canes can be manufactured for disciplinary purpose in different sizes and weights, determining the potential severity of the punishment. The main types are often known by the age groups of intended victims, especially in the domestic context:

'Light' canes (about 8 mm in diameter and 60 cm long, according to some sources) are called junior canes, normally considered sufficient to punish young school children (except sometimes for the gravest offenses), and hence also known as school cane. However, in America, where the paddle took the place of the cane for discipline, the name junior cane was rather given to a ceremonial walking stick students parade with.



These synonyms are commonly used with reference to canes and caning:

  • The nursery cane is sometimes used for even lighter canes, as it would be used for children under school age
  • The senior cane is a heavier type (about 10 mm thick, 75-80 cm long) than the junior cane and is frequently used for older children (or except for the lightest offenses); maybe synonymous is the adult cane.
  • The reformatory cane was reserved for the worst, '(otherwise) incorrigible' juveniles. About 12 mm thick and 36-48 inch long, this cane was often reserved for older boys and was used in severe cases; a similar term is Borstal cane (after the Borstal, a Commonwealth type of reformatory).
  • The Singapore cane is used in Malaysia and Brunei for the judicial and prison punishment of adult criminals. This cane is 15 mm in diameter and at about 1.2 m long.

The different varieties of ratten used are sometimes preferred because of their intrinsic severity. Of these, the common kooboo is considered lighter (if the same size) than the denser Dragon Canes; other common types bear geographical names: Malacca is Malaysia's continental peninsula, Palambang a city on Sumatra.

For misbehaving children in Asia, most parents use a wooden ruler or the handle end of a feather duster, which is usually made of narrow bamboo-like material.

In some spheres the cane, which is typically used by a certain disciplinarian, is commonly called after him. Thus in the Royal Navy the bosun's cane was frequently used on the backsides of boys without ceremony (as opposed to publicly kissing the gunner's daughter, a formal bare bottom flogging on deck ordered by the captain or a court martial, usually involving birch or cat o' nine tails) on the spot or in the gun room, for daily offenses (at least one mid 19th-century captain had every single junior boy given six cane strokes every morning on various pretexts! Template:Fact) considered too insignificant to require written formalities or orders from an officer (who certainly could and routinely also did order the cane, actually wielding it was considered unsuitable for a gentleman), but more severe than the bimmy. The cane in the hands of a corporal (especially of the Marines on board many fighting ships, often ordered to carry out formal punishment of crew members as well) was called stonnacky. In an attempt to standardize the canes (but the effective wielding is impossible to capture in written rules) the Admiralty had specimens according to all prevailing prescriptions, called patterned cane (and birch), kept in every major dockyard.

In ancient China, suspects or criminals were often caned, as punishment of interrogation, with large sticks or planks the size of an oar suited for today's small sailing boats. The offender usually bleeds from the wound at the buttocks, and can get infections if not treated instantly. The offenders will almost certainly have to spend days in bed.

  • Other, even lighter types of cane (e.g. as used for plant care) can also be used for physical discipline, as a so-called pervertible, especially in fetishist and BDSM circles; in fact the term caning is also used, sometimes even in stead of an existing specific term, for corporal punishment with an else-named but similar device, such as a pointing stick or ruler, especially if made of wood.
  • While the rattan never caught on in North America, the rather equivalent hickory stick (made from the native hickory tree) has also been a frequent, feared implement for school discipline, but like the freshly cut, flexble switch and other alternatives it gave way in the US almost exclusively (that is where corporal punishment persists or reemerges) to paddling with a flat wooden implement, while in Canada the strap was most used for severe physical discipline.

[edit] See also

[edit] Sources and references


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