Public humiliation
Public humiliation or public shaming is a form of punishment whose main feature is dishonoring or disgracing a person, usually an offender or a prisoner, especially in a public place. It was regularly used as a form of judicially sanctioned punishment in previous centuries, and is still practiced by different means in the modern era.
In the United States, it was a common punishment from the beginning of European colonization through the 19th century. It fell out of common use in the 20th century, though it has seen a revival starting in the 1990s.[1]
Shameful exposure
Pillories were a common form of punishment.
Public humiliation exists in many forms. In general, a criminal sentenced to one of the many forms of this punishment could expect to be placed in a central, public, or open place so that his fellow citizens could easily witness the sentence and, occasionally, participate in it as a form of "mob justice".
Just like painful forms of corporal punishment, it has parallels in educational and other rather private punishments (but with some audience), in school or domestic disciplinary context, and as a rite of passage. Physical forms include being forced to wear some sign such as "donkey ears" (simulated in paper, as a sign one is—or at least behaved—proverbially stupid), wearing a dunce cap, having to stand, kneel or bend over in a corner, or repeatedly write something on a blackboard ("I will not spread rumors", for example). Here different levels of physical discomfort can be added, such as having to hold heavy objects, go barefoot (see below) or kneeling on an uneven surface. Like physical punishment and harsh hazing, these have become controversial in most modern societies, in many cases leading to legal restrictions and/or (sometimes voluntary) abolishment.
Paris, 1944: French women accused of collaboration with Nazis had their heads shaved and were paraded through the streets barefoot.
Head shaving can be a humiliating punishment prescribed in law,[2] but also something done as "mob justice" - a stark example of which was the thousands of European women who had their heads shaved in front of cheering crowds in the wake of World War II,[3][4] as punishment for associating with occupying Nazis during the war. Public shaving was applied to (true or alleged) collaborators after the Allied liberated occupied territories from the Nazi troops.[3][4]
Forcing people to go barefoot has been used as a relatively effortless and more subtle form of humiliation in most past and present civilized cultures, primarily using the visual contrast to the standard form of appearance while also creating some level of physical discomfort. The exposure of bare feet often served as an indicator for imprisonment and slavery throughout ancient as well as modern history.[5] Even today prisoners officially have to go barefoot in many countries of the world and are also presented in court and showcased to the public unshod.​[6]​[7]​[8]​[9]​[10]​[11]​[12] As shoes are commonly worn by all social classes since antiquity in most civilized societies, showcasing a captive to the public in bare feet traditionally symbolizes the person's loss of social standing and personal autonomy. It usually also causes a considerable degree of humiliation, as this noticeable detail typically sets the prisoner apart from spectators visually and demonstrates the person's vulnerability and general powerlessness.
Further means of public humiliation and degradation consist in forcing people to wear typifying clothes, which can be penitential garbs or prison uniforms.
Presenting arrestees or prisoners to the public in restraints (such as handcuffs, shackles or similar devices) also serves as a convenient[how?] method of public humiliation besides the primary security aspects. The effect is complemented by presenting the person in a prison uniform or similar clothing.[example needed]
Corporal punishment
Public foot whipping in Iran
Public flogging in Brazil, Jean-Baptiste Debret
Main article: Corporal punishment
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Apart from specific methods essentially aiming at humiliation, several methods combine pain and humiliation or even death and humiliation. In some cases, the pain—or at least discomfort—is insignificant or rather secondary to the humiliation.
Public punishment
The simplest is to administer painful corporal punishment in public - the major aim may be deterrence of potential offenders - so the public will witness the perpetrator's fear and agony. This can either take place in a town square or other public gathering location such as a school, or take the form of a procession through the streets. This was not uncommon in the sentences to Staupenschlag (flagellation by whipping or birching, generally on the bare buttocks) in various German-speaking states, till the 19th century. A naval equivalent was Flogging round the fleet on a raft taken from ship to ship for consecutive installments of a great total of lashes, that could even be lethal. In some countries, the punishment of foot whipping is executed in public to this day.
Torture marks
The 1774 tarring and feathering of British customs agent John Malcolm soon after the Boston Tea Party.
Further information: Torture
The humiliation can be extended; intentionally or not; by leaving visible marks, such as scars, notably on body parts that are normally left visible. This also serves as a virtually indelible criminal record. This can even be the main intention of the punishment, as in the case of scarifications, such as human branding. It invariably is essential in forms of mutilation, such as ear cropping, though the functional loss is even greater; pain may even be intentionally minimized as in the case of surgical amputation, eliminating the risk of accidental death. Tarring and feathering also serves as means of extended humiliation.
Psychological effects
Main article: Humiliation § Psychological effects
Public shaming can result in negative psychological effects and devastating consequences, regardless of the punishment being justifiable or not. It could cause depression, suicidal thoughts and other severe mental problems. The humiliated individuals may develop a variety of symptoms including apathy, paranoia, anxiety, PTSD, or others. The rage and fury may arise in the persecuted individual, themselves lashing out against innocent victims, as they seek revenge or as a means of release.
Historical examples
Man and woman undergoing public exposure for adultery in Japan, circa 1860.
Flute of Shame displayed at the Torture Museum in Amsterdam.
In most of the modern World, such as in the United States, judicial use of public humiliation punishment has largely fallen out of favor since the practice is now considered cruel and unusual punishment, and is officially outlawed by the United States Constitution.[15]:501 However, there does remain one exception: Sex Offender Registries. A convicted sex offender's placement on the sex offender registry is public via a state run website in all 50 states and those who find themselves listed, most of whom have served their time and released from state probation, may find that the stigma is so great that it can essentially remove a person from society, sometimes forcing them to live in unsuitable housing. In 2018, a judge in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado declared Colorado's sex offender scheme as unconstitutional, citing cruel and unusual punishment. In 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit overturned that decision.[16]
See also
  1. ^ Deardorff, Julie (April 20, 2000). "Shame Returns As Punishment".
  2. ^ "Article 87 ... shall be sentenced to flogging, having his head shaven, and one year of exile...", Islamic Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran
  3. ^ a b Beevor, Antony (5 June 2009). "An Ugly Carnival". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  4. ^ a b Shorn Women: Gender and Punishment in Liberation France, ISBN 978-1-85973-584-8
  5. ^ "Cape Town and Surrounds". westerncape.gov.za. Government of South Africa. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  6. ^ "Australian addict welcomes 31-year prison term". The Sydney Morning Herald. 4 July 2003.
  7. ^ "Irish Australian man facing jail in Thailand - Irish Echo". The Irish Echo (Australia). Archived from the original on 29 September 2014.
  8. ^ "A Foreigner in a Thai Court". Thai Prison Life - ชีวิตในเรือนจำ. 27 May 2007.
  9. ^ "B.C. pedophile, homeward bound after Thai prison term, arrested at Vancouver airport". The Globe and Mail.
  10. ^ Olarn, Kocha (23 January 2013). "Thai court sentences activist to 10 years in prison for insulting king - CNN.com". CNN.
  11. ^ "theage.com.au - The Age". The Age. 4 July 2003.
  12. ^ "Extradition hearing for arms dealer postponed". Taipei Times. 29 July 2008.
  13. ^ Cox, James (Spring 2009). "Bilboes, Brands, and Branks: Colonial Crimes and Punishments". Colonial Williamsburg Journal.
  14. ^ McBride-Ahebee, Octavia (2011). Where My Birthmark Dances. Georgetown, Kentucky: Finishing Line Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-59924-827-1.
  15. ^ Ziel, Paul (2005). "Eighteenth Century Public Humiliation Penalties in Twenty-First Century America: The 'Shameful' Return of 'Scarlet Letter' Punishments in U.S. v. Gementera" (PDF). BYU Journal of Public Law. 19 (2): 499–522. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-05-13. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
  16. ^ https://narsol.org/2020/08/registration-not-cruel-and-unusual-punishment-says-tenth-circuit/
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Public humiliation.
Further reading
So You've Been Publicly Shamed, a 2015 book by Jon Ronson on the modern phenomenon of online public shaming on Twitter, Tumblr, and elsewhere on social media.
Last edited on 11 June 2021, at 21:23
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