Last updated: July 2016
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*Bangladesh is committed to reforming its laws to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings.*

Summary of law reform necessary to achieve full prohibition

Bangladesh’s commitment to prohibiting corporal punishment

Bangladesh expressed its commitment to prohibiting all corporal punishment of children, including in the home, at the July 2006 meeting of the South Asia Forum, following the 2005 regional consultation of the UN Study on Violence against Children. In 2009, the commitment was reaffirmed when the Government accepted the recommendation to prohibit corporal punishment made during the Universal Periodic Review of Bangladesh.

Summary of necessary legal reform to achieve full prohibition

Prohibition is still to be achieved in the home, alternative care settings, day care, penal institutions and as a sentence for crime; the Supreme Court ruling against corporal punishment in schools requires confirmation in legislation.

Article 89 of the Penal Code 1860 states: “Nothing which is done in good faith for the benefit of a person under twelve years of age, or of unsound mind by or by consent, either express or implied, of the guardian or other person having lawful charge of that person, is an offence by reason of any harm which it may cause, or be intended by the doer to cause or be known by the doer to be likely to cause to that person.…” This article should be repealed/amended to ensure there is no legal provision that can be construed as providing a legal defence for the infliction of corporal punishment. All corporal punishment should be prohibited, however light and by all persons with authority over children.

Alternative care settings – All provisions authorising corporal punishment should be repealed and corporal punishment prohibited in all alternative care settings (foster care, institutions, places of safety, emergency care, etc).

Day care – Corporal punishment should be prohibited in early childhood care (nurseries, crèches, preschools, family centres, etc) and day care for older children (day centres, after-school childcare, childminding, etc).

Schools – Corporal punishment is unlawful in schools by way of a Supreme Court ruling in 2011. This ruling should be confirmed through the enactment of legislation clearly prohibiting corporal punishment in all education settings.

Penal institutions – Provisions for caning of children in the Children Rules 1976 and for whipping of boys in the Prisons Act 1894 should be repealed and legislation enacted which clearly prohibits corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure in all institutions accommodating children in conflict with the law.

Sentence for crime – The provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Whipping Act, the Railways Act, the Penal Code and other laws authorising whipping of boys convicted of an offence should be repealed and all judicial corporal punishment prohibited, including in traditional justice systems.

Legality of corporal punishment

Home

Corporal punishment is lawful in the home. Article 89 of the Penal Code 1860 states: “Nothing which is done in good faith for the benefit of a person under twelve years of age, or of unsound mind by or by consent, either express or implied, of the guardian or other person having lawful charge of that person, is an offence by reason of any harm which it may cause, or be intended by the doer to cause or be known by the doer to be likely to cause to that person.…” A 2011 Supreme Court ruling (see under “Schools”) stated that this article is relevant only to medical actions on a child and not to corporal punishment. However, this has not been confirmed through law reform to explicitly prohibit all corporal punishment; it is notable that in other jurisdictions with comparable Penal Code provisions the article is interpreted as providing a defence for corporal punishment.[1] Provisions against violence and abuse in the Penal Code and the Domestic Violence Act 2010 are not interpreted as prohibiting corporal punishment in childrearing.

At a meeting of the South Asia Forum in July 2006, following on from the regional consultation in 2005 of the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children, the Government made a commitment to prohibition in all settings, including the home. In its written replies to questions from the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2009, the Government identified “protection of children from corporal punishment at home, schools and institutions” as a priority. In 2010, Government representatives in SAIEVAC (South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children) developed a national action plan to achieve prohibition and in 2011 endorsed a report on progress towards prohibiting corporal punishment in South Asia states which included an analysis of the reforms required in Bangladesh.[2] The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs is involved in SAIEVAC activities aimed at prohibiting corporal punishment in all settings.

In the 2011 ruling on corporal punishment in schools, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh High Court Division called for prohibition of corporal punishment in the home and directed the Government to consider amending the Children Act 1974 to make it an offence for parents (and employers) to impose corporal punishment on children. The Children Act 2013, which repeals the Children Act 1974, failed to achieve this. It includes the offence of child cruelty (art. 70), punishing “any person having the custody, charge or care of any child [who] assaults, abuses, neglects, forsakes, abandons unprotected, uses for personal services, or exposes in an obscene way such child and such assault, abuse, negligence, forsaking, abandonment, or the use in personal service causes unnecessary suffering or such injury to his health that it leads to loss of the child's eyesight or hearing or injury to any of limb or organ of the body and any mental derangement”, but it does not prohibit all corporal punishment.

In reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2015, the Government noted that a number of legislative measures are still being developed, including a “Ban on Corporal Punishment Policy and Guideline 2015” and the Children Rules 2015.[3] The Government also reported that a law to ban corporal punishment of children in all educational institutions and workplaces is being drafted, as well as a comprehensive law to ban all forms of violence against children, including corporal punishment.[4] Consultations have been carried out in Dhaka, Chittagong and Patuakhali districts on amendments necessary to existing laws on violence against children and recommendation submitted to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs in March 2014.[5] We are seeking further information.

 

Alternative care settings

Corporal punishment is lawful in alternative care settings under article 89 of the Penal Code 1860 (see under “Home”). Legislation governing care institutions reportedly provides for corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure but we have no specific details.[6] The Children Act 2013 does not explicitly prohibit all corporal punishment.

 

Day care

Corporal punishment is lawful in day care under article 89 of the Penal Code 1860 (see under “Home”). It is not prohibited in the Children Act 2013.

 

Schools

Corporal punishment is unlawful in schools according to a Supreme Court judgment issued on 13 January 2011[7] which stated that it violated the Constitutional prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment. The judgment followed a writ petition filed in July 2010 by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust and Ain o Salish Kendra with the High Court in Dhaka, as a result of which the Ministry of Education published a circular stating that corporal punishment is prohibited in schools, that it constitutes misconduct and that measures will be taken against perpetrators under the Penal Code, the Children Act and through departmental action.[8] The Ministry issued “Guidelines for the prohibition of corporal and mental punishment of students in educational institutions 2011”, which came into effect in April 2011.[9]

Prohibition is yet to be confirmed in legislation passed by Parliament: a draft Education Act has long been under discussion but as at June 2016 had still not been enacted.[10] The Supreme Court ordered laws relating to disciplinary action against teachers to be amended to identify the imposition of corporal punishment as misconduct.

 

Penal institutions

Corporal punishment is lawful as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions, including certified institutes, approved homes, prisons and vagrant homes. Rule No. 24 of the Children Rules 1976 lists sanctions for infringements of discipline, including “caning not exceeding ten stripes”. It states that the number of strokes should vary according to the age of the person and nature of the offence, should be inflicted on the buttocks or on the palm of the hand, and a medical officer should be present. The Prisons Act 1894 authorises whipping as a punishment for breaches of discipline by male prisoners, up to 30 stripes (art. 46); for boys under 16 it must be inflicted “in the way of school discipline” (art. 53). According to the Borstal Schools Act (art. 4), the Prisons Act applies to borstal schools.

The Children Act 2013 does not prohibit corporal punishment.

 

Sentence for crime

Whipping appears to be lawful as a sentence for crime for males. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, boys under 16 may be whipped “with a light rattan not less than half an inch in diameter” up to 15 “stripes”, older males up to 30 stripes (art. 392). Whipping must not be inflicted in instalments and may not be inflicted on females or on males sentenced to death or more than five years imprisonment (art. 393). Whipping can be ordered in addition to imprisonment only if the term of imprisonment exceeds three months; it must not be carried out until at least 15 days after sentencing and must be inflicted in the presence of the officer in charge of the jail or of the Judge or Magistrate (art. 391). The person to be whipped must be considered fit to receive the punishment, by a medical officer, the Magistrate or the officer present (art. 394).

The Penal Code 1860 does not provide for judicial whipping, but under the Whipping Act 1909 whipping may be given in lieu of or in addition to the punishments specified in the Penal Code for specific offences committed by persons over 16 (arts. 3 and 4). The Act provides for juvenile offenders (under 16) to be whipped in lieu of other punishments for a wider range of crimes under the Penal Code and other laws (art. 5). Whipping is a sentence for offences under the Cantonments Pure Food Act 1966 (art. 23), the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act 1933 (arts. 9, 10 and 12) and, for boys under the age of 12, the Railways Act 1890 (art. 130).

The 2011 Supreme Court judgment (see under “Schools”) stated that all laws authorising whipping or caning of children as a sentence of the courts should be immediately repealed. The Children Act 2013 states that the dignity of children in conflict with the law should be respected at all times (art. 54) and does not provide for judicial corporal punishment – but it does not explicitly prohibit corporal punishment as a sentence nor repeal the above mentioned provisions authorising judicial whipping of juvenile offenders. We are seeking information regarding the extent to which the new Act overrides other laws.

Corporal punishment is also commonly ordered by traditional village mediation councils (shalish), particularly against girls and women. Punishments include caning, whipping, beating and stoning to death, and are often issued as fatwas under Shari’alaw. The practice continues, despite a High Court ruling in July 2010 declaring all kinds of extra-judicial punishment unlawful and observing that cruel punishments at shalish are unconstitutional; a ruling in October 2010 declared that Bangladesh is a secular state, again confirming the issuing of fatwas as unlawful (writ petitions No. 5863/2009, No. 754/2010, No. 7245/2010).

The Constitution protects persons who have been arrested or detained from torture, cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment but states that this provision “shall not affect the operation of any existing law which prescribes any punishment or procedure for trial” (art. 35).

 

Universal Periodic Review of Bangladesh’s human rights record

Bangladesh was examined in the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in 2009 (session 4). The following recommendation was made and was accepted by the Government:[11]

“Taking into account the provisions of the CRC, take further measures to prohibit all forms of violence against children, including corporal punishment and to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility (Brazil); …”

The second cycle review took place in 2013 (session 16). The following recommendation was made:[12]

“Explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, including the home (Portugal)”

The Government did not clearly accept or reject the recommendation, stating: “The Supreme Court of Bangladesh passed judgment in Writ Petition no. 5684/2010 prohibiting all forms of punishment in all primary and educational institutions. Accordingly, the Government has prohibited, by issuing a circular, all forms of corporal punishment in all educational institutions. The Government will continue to work towards raising awareness about the adverse effects of corporal punishment in all settings. However, prohibiting the same in all spheres needs extensive and proper educational and socio-cultural initiatives.”[13]

 

Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations

Session 070 (2015)

(2 October 2015, CRC/C/BGD/CO/5 Advance Unedited Version, Concluding observation on fifth report, paras. 38 and 39)

“The Committee notes with appreciation the information provided by the State party that the High Court Division of the Supreme Court has given a directive to ban corporal punishment of children and to enact a law to prohibit corporal punishment of children in all educational institutions and workplaces. However, the Committee remains concerned about the high number of cases of violence reported in families, schools and institutions, alternative care settings, day care and penal institutions and as a sentence for crime.

“In the light of its general comment No. 8 (2006) on corporal punishment, the Committee urges the State Party to promote positive, non-violent and participatory forms of child-rearing and discipline, conduct awareness-raising programmes on this prohibition and create mechanisms for its fulfilment. The Committee also recommends strengthening the training of officials responsible for law enforcement on children’s right.”

Read more from Session 070 (2015)

Session 051 (2009)

(26 June 2009, CRC/C/BGD/CO/4, Concluding observations on third/fourth report, paras. 48 and 49)

"The Committee remains concerned about the ineffective implementation of existing laws to prevent corporal punishment and the existence of certain regulations in schools that permit forms of corporal punishment. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that although the Constitution prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, children continue to be victims of corporal punishment and other forms of cruel and degrading treatment because of its acceptance in law and in society.

"The Committee recommends that the State party take the necessary actions to stop corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment currently widely accepted and practiced and inter alia:

a) enforce existing laws to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment;

b) raise public awareness of this prohibition in order to transform societal attitudes towards the disciplining of children and to prevent corporal punishment at home, in schools, institutions and workplaces;

c) provide training and advocacy to promote alternative, non-violent forms of discipline in the family, schools, institutions and communities;

d) ensure that all cases of corporal punishment are investigated and perpetrators are brought to justice."

Read more from Session 051 (2009)

Session 034 (2003)

(27 October 2003, CRC/C/15/Add.221, Concluding observations on second report, paras. 43, 44, 77 and 78)

"The Committee expresses its profound concern at the prevalence of corporal punishment in schools, as well as at the fact that corporal punishment is still legal and widely practised within the legal system, in educational and other institutions and in the family.

"The Committee recommends that the State party, as a matter of urgency, review existing legislation and explicitly prohibit all forms of corporal punishment in the family, schools and institutions, as well as carry out public education campaigns about the negative consequences of ill-treatment of children, and promote positive, non-violent forms of discipline as an alternative to corporal punishment, particularly at the local level and in traditional communities.

"The Committee acknowledges the efforts made by the State party to improve the juvenile justice system. However, the Committee remains concerned at the limited progress achieved in establishing a functioning juvenile justice system throughout the country. In particular, the Committee is concerned at: …

e) the use of caning and whipping as a sentence for juvenile offenders….

"The Committee recommends that the State party ensure the full implementation of juvenile justice standards, in particular articles 37, 39 and 40 of the Convention, and other United Nations standards in the field of juvenile justice…. In particular, the Committee recommends that the State party: …

b) ensure that the imposition of the death penalty, of life imprisonment without possibility of release, and of caning and whipping as sanctions for crimes committed by persons while under 18 is explicitly prohibited by law…."

Read more from Session 034 (2003)

Session 015 (1997)

(18 June 1997, CRC/C/15/Add.74, Concluding observations on initial report, paras. 18 and 38)

"The Committee is concerned at the lack of appropriate measures to combat and prevent ill-treatment and abuse, including sexual abuse, both within and outside the family, and at the lack of awareness and information on this matter. The persistence of corporal punishment and its acceptance by the society and instances of violence committed by law enforcement officials against abandoned or ‘vagrant’ children are matters of serious concern.

"The Committee recommends that the State party develop public awareness campaigns and measures to provide appropriate assistance to families in carrying out their childrearing responsibilities with a view, inter alia, to preventing domestic violence, prohibiting corporal punishment, and preventing early marriages and other harmful traditional practices."

Read more from Session 015 (1997)

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Concluding Observations

CEDAW session 048 (2011)

(22 March 2011, CEDAW/C/BGD/CO/7, Concluding observations on seventh report, paras. 19 and 20)

"... The Committee notes with concern ... that despite the High Court's decision that the extrajudicial punishments fatwas are illegal, there are reports of illegal penalties being enforced through shalish rulings to punish 'anti-social and immoral behaviour'...

"The Committee urges the State party to give priority attention to combating violence against women and girls and to adopt comprehensive measures such as a national action plan to address all forms of violence against women and girls, in accordance with its general recommendation No. 19 (1992). It calls upon the State party to expeditiously: ... b) ... ensure that shalish decisions do not violate laws and do not lead to extrajudicial penalties...."

Read more from CEDAW session 048 (2011)

Prevalence/attitudinal research for Bangladesh in the last 10 years

A survey involving 24 government primary schools in eight unions of Bangladesh, conducted in April 2015, found a drop in the prevalence of school corporal punishment from 79% in 2013 to 53% in 2015. However, the acceptability among guardians of corporal punishment at school remains high at 95% in 2015, with female guardians more likely to find it unacceptable (5%) than male guardians (3%); guardians that have completed secondary education or above are also more likely to find corporal punishment unacceptable (10%) than illiterate guardians (3%).

(Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) (2015), Report Card Survey on Primary Education in Eight Selected Unions of Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh: Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE))

A survey conducted in 2012-2013 found that 82.3% of children age 1-14 years had experienced “violent punishment” (psychological aggression and/or physical punishment) during the month preceding the survey: 74.4% experienced psychological aggression, 65.9% physical punishment and 24.6% severe physical punishment. In contrast to the actual prevalence of physical punishment (65.9%), the survey revealed that only 33.3% of respondents believe physical punishment is needed to bring up, raise, or educate a child properly; respondents with no educational attainment and those residing in poorer households were more likely to find physical punishment a necessary method of disciplining children (35.1% and 41.7% respectively).

(Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) & UNICEF Bangladesh (2014), Bangladesh Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2012-2013, Progotir Pathey: Final Report, Dhaka, Bangladesh: Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) & UNICEF Bangladesh)

A study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs under the “National Initiative to End Violence against Children” (NIEVAC), involving 1,210 children and 1,165 adults, found 89% of children (88% of boys, 90% of girls) said they are physically punished at home; in 56% of cases, this happened more than five times during the last 12 months; 82% of adults said they physically punish their children at home. Physical punishment is more often inflicted by mothers (77%) than fathers (18%), and fathers are more likely to physically punish boys (26%) than girls (5%). Almost 100% of children said they are physically punished at work; a lower prevalence was identified by employers (39-43%). In educational institutions, 83% of children experienced physical punishment, with a lower prevalence identified by adults (67%); girls are more often physically punished by female teachers (84%) than male teachers (16%). In residential institutions, 68% of children experienced physical punishment, with a lower prevalence identified by caregivers and management (54%); teachers (55%) and teachers of religious subjects (23%) were the most frequent perpetrator.

(Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (2013), Baseline Report on Violence against Children in Bangladesh, Dhaka: Ministry of Women and Children Affairs)

In a 2013 study, a nationally representative sample of 4,200 12-17 year olds was asked what they thought the role of political aspirants was in stopping corporal punishment in school: 81% said political aspirants should raise awareness and ensure teachers’ accountability, 77% said they should ensure enforcement of the directive against corporal punishment. Children highlighted that many children stop going to school because of corporal punishment. They said that if they became involved in politics in future, they would discourage corporal punishment and mental harassment in schools and homes and inform teachers and parents about the bad effects of corporal punishment.

(Ministry of Information (2013), Children's Opinion Poll: Children’s Views and Expectations from Political Aspirants and Leaders in Bangladesh, UNICEF)

In a 2012 national study, 77.1% of students stated that physical, psychological or financial punishments were inflicted on students in their schools. Nearly half of parents (48.4%) said these punishments happened in their children’s schools and 34.9% of teachers said they happened in the schools they worked in.

(Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust & Institute of Informatics and Development (2012), Survey Report on Violence against Children in Education Institute Settings, Institute of Informatics and Development)

In a study involving 2,400 men, 16.9% of men living in urban areas and 11.6% of men living in rural areas reported having been beaten at home with a belt, stick, whip or other hard object during childhood; 4.1% of urban men and 1.8% of rural men reported having been beaten so hard it left a mark or a bruise. About 4% of urban and rural men reported having been physically punished at school; 43% of urban men and 36% of rural men reported having been insulted or humiliated in public by a family member during childhood. Men who had experienced physical violence during childhood were more likely to hold inequitable gender attitudes. The study recommends that, as part of addressing violence against women, corporal punishment in the home be ended.

(Naved, R. T. et al (2011), Men’s Attitudes and Practices Regarding Gender and Violence Against Women in Bangladesh: Preliminary Findings, Dhaka: icddr,b)

In a random survey conducted by the NGO Andhra Pradesh Bala Sangham, students of about 12 schools stated on camera that they had been subjected to corporal punishment, despite a Supreme Court judgment in January 2011 that corporal punishment in schools was unconstitutional.

(Reported in Deccan Chronicle, 7Feb 2011)

A 2009 report by UNICEF documented a high prevalence of corporal punishment of children at home and school. The study involved nearly 4,000 households, through interviews with children aged 9-18 and the heads of their households, focus group discussions, case studies and a survey with children living on the street. The research found that 91% of children in school experience physical punishment. Poorer children were more likely to experience it, with greater frequency and severity, than richer students. Punishments included hitting the palm with a ruler or stick (experienced by 76% of students), standing in class, hitting other body parts with a ruler or stick, and slapping. Twenty-three per cent of students said they faced corporal punishment every day and 7% reported injuries and bleeding as a result. Corporal punishment was one of the top four reasons given by children for not attending school. In the home, 99.3% of children reported being verbally abused and threatened regularly by their parents; 74% said they were physically punished by parents or guardians. Seventy per cent were usually slapped, 40% regularly beaten or kicked. Of the children who took part in the study, 367 worked outside the home, 25% of whom experienced physical punishment in their workplace, with older girls and young boys receiving more physical punishment than other children. Girls were more likely to be seriously injured by corporal punishment than boys. Physical punishment in the workplace was felt to be unacceptable by 59% of working children.

(UNICEF (2009), Opinions of Children of Bangladesh on Corporal Punishment: Children’s Opinion Poll 2008, Dhaka: UNICEF & Ministry of Women and Children Affairs)

Footnotes

[1] For example, see India’s Third/fourth report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2012), ch. 4, para. 40

[2] SAIEVAC (2011), Prohibition of corporal punishment of children in South Asia: a progress review

[3] 12 August 2015, CRC/C/BGD/Q/5/Add.1, Reply to list of issues, para. 3

[4] 12 August 2015, CRC/C/BGD/Q/5/Add.1, Reply to list of issues, paras. 24 and 26

[5] 12 August 2015, CRC/C/BGD/Q/5/Add.1, Reply to list of issues, para. 27

[6] Justice M Imman Ali, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, in correspondence with the Global Initiative, 2 September 2010

[7] Writ Petition No. 5684 of 2010

[8] Ministry of Education Circular No. 37.031.004.02.00.134.2010, 8 August 2010, Regarding the Ending of Corporal Punishment on Students in Educational Institutions

[9] Ministry of Education Circular No. 37.031.004.02.00.134.2010-151, 21 April 2011

[10] 2 October 2015, CRC/C/BGD/CO/5 Advance Unedited Version, Concluding observation on fifth report, para. 4

[11] 5 October 2009, A/HRC/11/18, Report of the working group, para. 94(16)

[12] 8 July 2013, A/HRC/24/12, Report of the working group, para. 130(19)

[13] 23 July 2013, A/HRC/24/12/Add.1, Report of the working group: Addendum, para. 130(19)

Child population

57,168,000 (UNICEF, 2015)

Forthcoming treaty body examinations and UPRs

Universal Periodic Review (UPR): 2018, session 30, deadline for briefing 21 September 2017 (tbc)

Human Rights Committee (ICCPR): 2017, session 119, deadline for briefing for exam has passed (6 February 2017)

This is an automatic translation service. Extracts from laws, treaty body recommendations and Universal Periodic Review outcomes are unofficial translations.