SRSG Maalla M’jid calls for universal adoption of ban on corporal punishment to lay the foundations for non-violent childhoods
New York, 3 May 2021 – Corporal punishment – a clear breach of children’s rights – is the most common and normalized form of violence against children worldwide. More than 2 in 3 children experience corporal discipline at the hands of their caregivers and 87 percent of the world’s children are not protected from this by law.
In an event organized to mark the #ENDCorporalPunishment Day, SRSG Maalla M’jid outlined the harmful impact of physical and humiliating treatment and the associated risks for children who are victims of this violent practice, which include behavioural and anxiety disorders, depression, suicide attempts, alcohol and drug dependency, low self-esteem, hostility, and emotional instability.
“We now have decades of evidence on the impact of physical and humiliating punishment. The evidence is clear and consistent: corporal punishment carries many diverse and severe risks of harm with no accompanying benefits. It brings harm to children, adults, and societies as a whole.” said Dr. Maalla M’jid.
Currently, 600 million children under the age of 5 live in a country where corporal punishment is legal in their homes. This widespread social acceptance entrenches children’s low status in society from an early age, paving the way for countless other forms of violence and mistreatment.
SRSG Maalla M’jid also stressed that in many parts of the world, corporal punishment is seen as an acceptable practice, teaching children that violence and coercion are acceptable ways to settle disagreements, leading to approval and use of other forms of violence in the future leading, in many cases, to intimate partner violence in adulthood.
“There is nothing natural or necessary about hitting children. The use of physical and humiliating punishment rather represents a choice... It is a choice shaped by harmful norms regarding the status of children and misconceptions about how effective discipline works. We must support parents and caregivers to make a different choice. They can choose positive discipline that sets boundaries for children but that does not undermine their dignity.”
Furthermore, SRSG Maalla M’jid acknowledged progress achieved across regions in tackling this issue. Compared to 1979, when only one country had banned corporal punishment in all settings, today nearly one third of UN Member States have legal prohibitions in place challenging the acceptability of violence against children, helping to educate both parents and children alike.
“One of the main instruments to achieve this is law reform. Prohibiting physical and humiliating punishment in all settings, including the home, is a vital step. It challenges the acceptability of violence. It makes the promise of equal protection a reality. We need the political will and commitment to put them into action. We need to raise awareness and to change behaviours and perceptions through promoting positive discipline and positive parenting.” added SRSG Maalla M’jid.
Though important, law reform is only one part of the process. It is important to compliment policy and legal progress with changes in cultural attitudes and behaviours towards the effective discipline of children. Examples of positive discipline include empathy, constructive dialogue, and a more in-depth understanding of how to treat a child during their different stages of development.
Positive progress made worldwide must continue to end violence against children by 2030, keeping the promise of the Global Agenda placing the physical and psychological punishment of children as a top priority towards a more sustainable future.
Have questions? Visit this FAQ page on corporal punishment to further details.
More information is also available in seven languages including English, Arabic, French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, and Portuguese, on how to end corporal punishment for children at: https://endcorporalpunishment.org/