Monday, October 13, 2008

Foot Beating: Falanga (or Bastinado)





Falanga describes a form of foot torture where victims are bound with their feet raised and their soles beaten with sticks. In more recent times cables or metal implements might be used. It is thought falanga had its origins in Turkey but was also recorded in the Far East. Persians (now Iran) favoured bastinado, where the victim was gently and rhythmically beaten with a lightweight stick or bamboo on the soles of the feet. Continued bastinado resulted in uncontrollable hysteria and eventual mental collapse. At one time or another many types of whips rods and cudgels were used to beat the soles of the feet and during the Middle Ages, falanga was a punishment used on dishonest traders.



Bakers were particularly singled for this treatment and to avoid official scrutiny bakers made a good will gesture to their customers by supplying a thirteenth roll (bread bap) with every dozen purchased. This is thought to be the origins of the bakers dozen. A common misunderstanding is the thirteen rolls represented the twelve disciples plus Jesus.



Falanga is still used today as torture, partly because the effects are difficult to identify medically. Blows are sometimes direct to bare feet or through shoes. In severe cases, casualties may be forced to walk on glass; or jump on the spot carrying a heavy weight.



The immediate effect is excruciating pains, with bleeding and tissue swelling but permanent damaged is dependent on post traumatic oedema (swelling). Torturers will often limit this, as part of the ordeal, by cooling the feet or forcing the victim to put their shoes on after a beating. Smashing the heel and ball of the foot destroys the natural fatty-fibro padding which protects the feet from high impact contact with the ground. Depending on the severity of damage this would leave the victim unable to walk without pain. Skin wounds heal by second intention, leaving painful scars. Detachment of the skin at its deeper levels results in damage to proprioception adding considerably to pathological gait. Many victims report aponeuritis where the whole sole of the foot has become painful. Changes in pressure within muscle compartments necessitate a radical change in walking style.



The feet are reported as hot and cold and there is an increase in the rate of perspiration. Stability and balance may also be adversely affected due to falanga. In many regions of the world falanga is still practised as a form of corporal punishment in bringing up children.



Bastinado has now become more associated with sex play and describes the use of small whips with soft leather applied with light strokes to the soles of the feet. The systematic foot beating (mastigophilia) is consensual and the subject will have a pre-arranged signal when they want it stopped.

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