From prohibition to elimination: how states can move on from violent punishment of children

Achieving children’s right to full protection of their human dignity and physical integrity and to equal protection under the law is established as a global human rights imperative. It requires explicit prohibition of corporal punishment and all other cruel or degrading forms of punishment, in the family home and all other settings. This clear prohibition in all settings must be accompanied by effective implementation of the law, including sustained public education and awareness-raising measures to eliminate violent punishment of children. To achieve comprehensive and sustainable progress towards elimination once prohibition has been achieved, including ensuring integration into all relevant services and contacts with children and families, it is essential that governments are fully engaged in the process. 

 Measures needed to accompany/follow prohibition

  • Wide dissemination and explanation of the law and its implications
  • Detailed guidance, for all involved, on how the law prohibiting violent punishment should be implemented in the best interests of children
  • Communication of children’s right to protection from corporal punishment and all other cruel or degrading forms of punishment to children and adults
  • Promotion of positive, non-violent forms of discipline to the public, children, parents, other carers, teachers, etc
  • Dissemination of information on the dangers of corporal punishment
  • Integration of implementation/enforcement  of the prohibition into the national and local child protection system
  • Identification of key public figures and a wide range of partners who can support implementation of the law and transformation of attitudes
  • Attraction of necessary resources
  • Evaluation of the impact of law reform and other measures, through a baseline survey and regular follow-up surveys, interviewing children and parents.

 Possible channels and opportunities/contact points for communication of key messages

  • Birth registration
  • Pre- and post-natal services
  • All other health service and health practitioner contacts with parents, future parents, children
  • Pre-school entry, school entry, school curriculum, informal educational settings
  • Social and welfare services in contact with children (including children in all non-family settings) and with families
  • Initial and in-service training of all those working with and for families and children, including teachers, care workers, etc
  • Elements of civil society in contact with children and families, including religious/faith groups
  • Mass media, internet, social networking, etc.

 Planning for change

A national plan should be developed by the government with other potentially active partners on how to progress from prohibition to elimination. This could be a distinct plan or an integral element in a national plan to eliminate all forms of violence against children. A review is likely to be needed, covering:

  • what action there has been – including development of programmes and materials – challenging corporal punishment in the home and family, local community, schools and other institutions, all forms of alternative care, child labour and penal systems for children
  • the structures of relevant national/local services impacting on children and families which could be used as a communications vehicle to support the move away from violent punishment
  • available research on the prevalence of and attitudes towards violent punishment of children.