Caning is a corporal punishment in which someone is beaten with a cane, typically one made from rattan. The term is also used to refer to the practice of weaving rushes and other materials together for make seats and backs for chairs and other furniture. Both terms reference “cane” in the sense of a long reed or tube. At one time, caning was a widespread and broadly accepted form of punishment. Today, it is used in only a handful of locations worldwide, and most nations which use it limit the situations in which it can be employed as punishment.
The blows with the cane are referred to as strokes or cuts. Depending on the material the cane is made from, the width, and the way it is handled, caning can leave someone with injuries ranging from redness and mild bruising to permanent scars. A directive as to the number of strokes is usually given before beginning the punishment.
Traditionally, caning is done on the buttocks or the hands. The person being caned may be directed to uncover the buttocks, or to leave them covered. In some areas, a punishment known as foot whipping is used, in which the soles of the feet are beaten with a cane. This punishment can be extremely painful, and may leave the person being disciplined unable to walk for several days.
Many people associate caning with punishments in school, especially in Britain, where the cane was once applied regularly, and a number of British novels and biographies have referenced the use of the cane. Corporal punishment in schools in most regions of the world is frowned upon today. However, judicial caning, in which the cane is used to punish people for infractions of the law, persists, and some militaries also utilize the cane in punishments. Tanzania, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Nigeria all prescribe it for certain crimes.
Some people have argued that caning is a form of torture, and it should be outlawed. In some cases where foreign nations have been caned for legal infractions, a great deal of controversy erupted as people protested the punishment as unfair. Disagreements over acceptable punishments for crimes occasionally flare up when foreign nations are involved in crimes which are heavily penalized. While one is the guest of another nation, it is usually necessary to submit to their laws, although an embassy may intervene if they feel that a citizen has not received due process, or if the punishment seems inhumane or lacking in compassion.
Caning is a type of punishment in which prisoners or suspected criminals are beaten with canes. The canes can range in materials but are usually made from rattan. Caning was once an acceptable form of corporal punishment all over the world. Today, it only still exists as a standard form in a few countries where it is stringently regulated.
Caning does not exist in isolation; it is a punishment with additional sentencing. When administered, the penalty is exacted in full view of an audience. Those waiting in line to be caned are also present, in addition to the Superintendent of Prisons and a medical officer.
When the caning commences, the prisoner is brought out into the courtyard area, where everyone can observe the punishment. In many cases, the person is asked to strip naked, but sometimes removing the pants past the buttocks will suffice. The cane strokes are administered at 30-second intervals on the buttocks, though occasionally foot caning is also administered.
Most materials used specifically for caning are made from rattan. Rattan is a vine-like plant species that is also explicitly used for weaving and furniture making. To do so, the first layer must be stripped away to reach the pliable vine.
In some places, even the size of the cane is regulated. It must be measured at 120 cm long and 13 mm thick in Singapore. The outer layer must be stripped away, and it is often soaked in warm water to ensure that it is pliable and elastic. Some say that the vine is soaked in saltwater brine to increase the pain response, but officials have denied that claim; they confirm that the canes are regularly coated in antiseptic to prevent infection. In other places, the qualifications are just as rigid.
Many people confuse bamboo and rattan. Though the two plants may appear similar, they are very different. Rattan is a vine. Bamboo is a type of tree. Rattan has a solid middle core, whereas bamboo is mainly hollow. Both plants, however, have horizontal notching on their skin. Bamboo is rumored to be used in other types of torture but not caning.
Singapore Caning Aftermath
Singapore caning incident refers to a 1994 criminal case with an American named Michael Fay, who was sentenced to caning in Singapore, and the American government tried to intervene. The aftermath caused an international outcry over the torturous nature of caning and called for the end of the practice worldwide.
The caning was only newsworthy because the student involved in the caning was American. Michael Fay was a United States-born citizen living with his mother and stepfather in Singapore. He chose to spend time with a debatable group of friends who stole road signs and vandalized cars. Once the criminal operation was found out, the government questioned the students, and many were sentenced to minimal jail terms with a certain number of lashes by caning in 1994. Fay pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four months jail time and six lashes.
The United States government attempted to intervene, as did the international press, and Singapore was largely unmoved by the efforts. Ultimately, they chose to uphold their laws and maintain caning as an acceptable punishment for the crimes. The only compromise the Singapore officials were willing to make was to lessen the number of lashes for Fay. In the end, he received four instead of six to maintain international relations.
For the most part, the 1994 Michael Fay caning was a media spectacle. However, it did highlight some of the inhumane aspects of corporal punishment. The psychological detriment suffered from caning is as damaging as the physical effects. More legal restrictions and caning censures were adopted due to the Fay case because an international spotlight was on caning as an inhumane practice.
While some countries still cane, including Singapore, they now have stringent regulations detailing when caning can and can’t be used and with what force. Caning now is often reserved for more harsh penalties, and jail time is increased for more marginal crime sentencing. Updates in caning practices include alleged humanitarian exemptions with no women, men over 50, or anyone sentenced to death can be caned. Additionally, no more than 24 cane strokes can be administered in a single punishment. Probably criminal causes for caning include:
- Sexual abuse, rape, and molestation
- Robbery and gang robbery
- Murder and grievous hurt
- Kidnapping and hostage-taking
- Extortion and laundering
- Unlawful possession of weapons
- Drug abuse and trafficking