What is Caning?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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.

Caning is a corporal punishment where someone is beaten with a cane.
Caning is a corporal punishment where someone is beaten with a cane.

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.

Caning is typically administered to the hand or buttocks, resulting in a variety of injuries from redness and bruising to permanent scars.
Caning is typically administered to the hand or buttocks, resulting in a variety of injuries from redness and bruising to permanent scars.

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.

Singapore uses caning for some crimes.
Singapore uses caning for some crimes.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


By not caning your kids, they grow up to be rude persons without normal behavior - ending up with the wrong type of friends. Kids needs very strict physical discipline, to give them a good start in life. That does not mean that you should cane them half-dead, but so that they feel it really good - to make them learn something. It does not hurt anybody.


I think caning is unfair. That's all.

I agree with Sara007. Why use a cane? It's just stupid, and meaningless. The kid won't even learn anything. Parents who use canes are the problem. They are the ones who turn the kids violent.


@MrSmirnov - I am shocked that you condone caning of children! Children should not be abused, and I don't think there is anytime when it is right to hit a child. There are better ways to punish children for wrongdoings.

A lot of parents have managed to raise perfectly polite children by talking with them and setting guidelines for their behavior. There is not need to resort to barbaric violence.

Does anyone believe that caning is a good way to teach people a lesson? What does hitting really show others?

I think that caning is just a form of bullying that shouldn't be tolerated, especially not in schools.


It's really too bad that caning has been outlawed as a form of corporal punishment in schools. While I do think there should be regulations as to how much is too much when it comes to hitting kids, a little fear of the system can prevent a whole lot of problems later on.

When I was younger my grandma would take a wooden spoon to the behind of any kids that got too far out of line, and you know what, we learned right from wrong! We didn't dare defy my grandma either because she was an adult and she always treated us fairly. Never once were we hit for something that didn't deserve. Kids aren't stupid and I think they know when they have earned a punishment.


Do any schools still do this regularly? I always thought it had kind of gone the way of paddling in schools. I mean, I know a few schools still have corporal punishment, but surely it doesn't happen all that often?


@nextcorrea - Lots of interesting points. Here in America we like to think that we are the gold standard of humane treatment of prisoners. We proudly note that we do not practice corporal punishment unlike more "savage" nations. But I think in lots of indirect ways prisoners are punished physically when they enter the prison system.

We have all heard about extreme overcrowding. This often means that prisoners have to live in deplorable conditions, struggle for medical care, live under increased risk of violence and face punishment from increasingly desperate guards. I know that prison is supposed to be hard, but there is a line when it borders on torture.

We also have to ask ourselves which is the worse punishment. To have to endure a brief moment of physical violence or to be flung into a hopeless bureaucracy often for relatively minor crimes. I will not say that we are worse than Singapore or other countries that practice corporal punishment but I think we are far from as good as we think.


Most people in America associate caning with the strange story from about 15 years ago of the American in Singapore. He was arrested for either stealing cars or graffiti, one of the two. He was sentenced to be caned as part of his punishment.

The story was covered pretty heavily here in the states, probably owing to the exotic notion of corporal punishment, particularly by a big piece of cane. The story died out pretty quickly and I don't remember what happened to the guy after he was punished.

I remember that far from being a national outcry about the treatment of one of its citizens, most people seemed to think that the guy was kind of a dofus who got what he deserved. If he broke obvious laws in another country he had to suffer the punishment, no matter how draconian it was. Kind of a strange reaction when you begin to think about it.

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