Corporal punishment is the deliberate infliction of pain to someone as correction or punishment.
When used for the punishment of criminals or slaves, it is usually applied using an instrument such as a cane, switch or a whip. Some such implements have become well-known. The 'cat-o-nine-tails' once used in America and by the British is one example. The Russian knout, which consisted of leather thongs with pieces of metal inserted, is another example. Ancient Romans used a similar device: the scourge.
Many parents use a milder form of corporal punishment called "spanking", usually slapping their child's buttocks with the palm of their hand.
Corporal and capital punishment were long the main forms of punishment used by society. Since the 18th century corporal punishment has tended to be gradually replaced by fines and incarceration. However, several societies retain widespread use of corporal punishment; this includes nations such as Singapore and Malaysia. The Singaporean practice of caning became much discussed in the U.S. in 1994, when American teenager Michael Fay was sentenced to such punishment for an offence of car vandalisation. In Singapore, male violent offenders and rapists are typically sentenced to caning in addition to a prison term.
Corporal punishment is further an important part of Islam's traditional Sharia law. According to that legal system, women may also be subject to corporal punishment. The person carrying out the whipping must however in this case retain a copy of the Quran (the Islamic bible) in his armpit, which significantly limits the range of motion and thus the impact of the blows.
A small minority of Western thinkers argue that corporal punishment is a quick and effective method that should be considered as an alternative to incarceration.
Corporal punishment of children, usually by spanking, remains an accepted social practice in many countries. However, it is generally accepted even by proponents of the corporal punishment of children that excessive physical punishment amounts to child abuse. Opponents of the physical punishment of children argue that even the lesser forms of corporal punishment are abusive, an argument that is increasingly popular in many countries. A number of countries such as Sweden have banned the corporal punishment of children entirely.