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A two-tailed leather tawse, produced for the BDSM market.

A tawse, sometimes formerly spelled taws (the plural of Scots taw, a thong of a whip) is an implement for corporal punishment. It was used for educational discipline, primarily in Scotland, but also in schools in the English cities of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Gateshead, Manchester and Walsall.

A tawse consists of a strip of leather, with one end split into a number of tails. The thickness of the leather and the number of tails varied. Many Scottish saddlers made tawses for local customers. The official name "tawse" was hardly ever used in conversation by either teachers or pupils, who instead referred to it as the belt, which is normally a term for an unforked implement, as worn in trousers (see belt).

The products of the best-known producer, John J Dick, were made in Lochgelly in Fife, Scotland. Lochgelly tawses were produced in four different weights; Light, Medium, Heavy & Extra Heavy. Each tawse would be stamped either L, M, H or XH to indicate its thickness.

Scottish state schools used the tawse to punish pupils of either sex on the palm of the hand. This was normally administered in front of the class. In Walsall and Gateshead, and in some schools in Manchester, however, male students were tawsed on the seat of the trousers.

Some Scottish independent schools also used the tawse, such as Keil School, but others such as Fettes College used the cane instead, in the way of most schools in England.

A 1982 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights about parental choice in education led indirectly to the use of the tawse (and that of all other forms of corporal punishment) being banned by law in UK state schools in 1987, but most Scottish local education authorities had already abolished it by the early 1980s.

Original Lochgelly tawses are now considered collectibles and may be sold for several hundred pounds each.

The tawse was also used for judicial corporal punishment in Scotland as an alternative to the more usual birch. Courts could sentence boys of over 14 but under 16 to up to 36 strokes with an extra-heavy tawse for any offence. This was administered to the offender's bare buttocks. Judicial corporal punishment was abolished in 1948.

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