Tool showcasing good practices of States to end corporal punishment of children

Guidance and discipline are important for a child’s growth education and development as a way to prepare the child for their future stage as an adult living productively and peacefully in society. However, there are important limits on how children can be disciplined. Corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment fail to recognise children as full rights holders and disrespect their inherent dignity and right to physical integrity as human beings. Child development principles advocate instead for the use of alternative measures, which are commonly referred to as “positive discipline”, and consist of non-violent, solution-focused and respectful ways to discipline children. Only positive discipline is consistent with international human rights standards and in particular, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention against Torture. This new tool is further helpful in implementing a range of Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 16.2.

During the Human Rights Council 2021 Annual full-day meeting on the Rights of the Child, Najat Maalla M’jid, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, stressed the need to scale up efforts to safeguard children’s freedom from violence and advance in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development envisages a world free from fear and violence and the full realization of children’s rights as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”[1]. Violence against children continues to be widespread, a worrisome trend which infiltrates all settings (home, school, care, etc) and is widely used as a method to discipline children.

What does positive discipline look like? What elements should be taken into account when developing a comprehensive law and policy framework to effectively prohibit corporal punishment? What can States borrow and learn from the examples of good practices implemented all over the world?

In an attempt to anwser these questions and guide States, as well as other relevant stakeholders, to better understand and implement their international human rights obligations, Child Rights Connect was commissioned by the Convention against Torture Initiative (CTI) to develop an Implementation Tool Publication on “Positive Discipline and Alternatives to Corporal Punishment of Children. The tool has also counted on the invaluable inputs from Dr. Joan E. Durrant, world-renowned expert on positive discipline, and Child Rights Connect members’ including the Working Group on Violence.

In this tool you will find guidance on:

  • How to implement a positive discipline approach in educational and family settings.
  • The case and benefits of fully banning corporal punishment.
  • The roles different stakeholders can play during the development of a comprehensive policy to prohibit – in law and practice – corporal punishment.
  • Examples of good State policies, laws and practices that end corporal punishment and other forms of cruel or degrading punishments of children.
  • Explanations and examples of alternative practices to corporal punishment, and the methodologies on which they are based, which promote an educational rather than a punitive approach to disciplining children.

As highlighted by Najat Maalla M’jid in the Annual meeting on the rights of the child,  the last decade to achieve the 2030 Agenda goals has already started and, while challenges remain, the 2030 Agenda  provides a crucial framework for the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children by strengthening the protective shield around them and reducing their vulnerability. The 17 goals must be implemented with a rights-based approach focussing on protection of the most vulnerable.

CTI and Child Rights Connect encourage the use and dissemination of this publication to raise awareness about positive discipline and to move towards a society free from violence.

[1] Statement of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, Najat Maalla M’jid, during the Annual full-day meeting on the Rights of the Child in 2021. You can watch the video of her statement here.