Last updated: April 2016
Flag of Mauritania Country report for Mauritania

Summary of law reform necessary to achieve full prohibition

Prohibition is still to be achieved in the home, alternative care settings, day care, schools, penal institutions and as a sentence for crime.

We have been unable to establish whether or not written legislation confirms a “right” of parents and others to physically punish a child, but corporal punishment is widely tolerated and legal provisions against violence and abuse are not interpreted as prohibiting all corporal punishment in childrearing. Prohibition should be enacted of all forms of corporal punishment, including by parents.

Alternative care settings – Prohibition should be enacted in legislation applicable to all alternative care settings (foster care, institutions, places of safety, emergency care, etc).

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

Schools – The Ministerial Decision against the use of corporal punishment in schools should be confirmed in legislation, which should clearly prohibit all corporal punishment in all education settings, public and private, at all levels.

Penal institutions – Prohibition should be enacted of corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure in all institutions accommodating children in conflict with the law.

Sentence for crime – All judicial corporal punishment should be prohibited by law, including under Islamic law. 

Legality of corporal punishment

Home

Corporal punishment is lawful in the home. Provisions against violence and abuse in the Criminal Code 1983, the law “sur la traite des personnes” 2003, the Personal Status Code 2001 and the Constitution 1991 are not interpreted as prohibiting all corporal punishment of children. Order No. 2005-015 of 5 December 2005 on the judicial protection of children states that the subjection of children to torture or to acts of barbarity shall be punishable by six years’ rigorous imprisonment” and provides for harsh sentences if the offence is committed repeatedly or if it results in damage, mutilation, disability or death (art. 11), but it does not prohibit corporal punishment. In 2009, a Fatwa was issued against corporal punishment of children but it has not been followed by law reform.[1] A draft Act on violence against women is under discussion.[2]

The Government did not respond to recommendations to prohibit all corporal punishment of children made during the Universal Periodic Review of Mauritania in 2010.[3]

 

Alternative care settings

Presumably, the Fatwa against corporal punishment (see under “Home”) would apply to alternative care settings, including in the kafalah system, but there is no explicit prohibition of corporal punishment in law.

 

Day care

Presumably, the Fatwa against corporal punishment (see under “Home”) would apply to early childhood care and to day care for older children, but there is no explicit prohibition of corporal punishment in law.

 

Schools

The Ministry of Education has stated that corporal punishment should not be used (Decision No. 701 MEN/PR of 4 November 1968, art. 17), but there is no explicit prohibition in law. Applicable law includes Act No. 099-012 of 26 April 1999 on the reform of the education system and Act No. 2001-054 of 19 July 2001 on compulsory basic education: we have yet to examine the full texts of these Acts.

 

Penal institutions

There is no explicit prohibition of corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions, though there is protection more generally from violence. The Code of Criminal Procedure 2007 states in article 58: “Any person deprived of his or her liberty as a result of arrest or detention or any other form of deprivation of liberty must be treated in accordance with respect for human dignity. Mental or physical ill-treatment of detainees … are prohibited.” Article 15 of the National Police Regulations Act No. 2010-07 of 20 January 2010 prohibits “all cruel or degrading treatment that violates human rights”. Decree No. 2003-1524 (2003) on the structural regulations of rehabilitation centres for children in conflict with the law contains provisions on the rights of the child but we have no further details.

 

Sentence for crime

Corporal punishment is lawful as a sentence for crime. The Constitution states in article 13 that “Any form of mental or physical violence is prohibited” but the Criminal Code 1983 provides for punishments of amputation and flogging (e.g. art. 7). Order No. 2005-015 on the judicial protection of children states that the penalties imposed on children aged 15 to 18 convicted of an offence may not exceed half of the adult sentences, but it does not prohibit corporal punishment.

Article 285 of the Criminal Code states that “any adult who deliberately inflicts injury on, strikes, amputates a limb of, or inflicts any form of violence on an innocent person shall be punished by qisas [retribution in kind].” We have yet to ascertain the age at which adulthood is defined for the purposes of this provision.

 

Universal Periodic Review of Mauritania’s human rights record

Mauritania was examined in the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in 2010 (session 9). The following recommendations were made:[4]

“Remove the death penalty and corporal punishment from Mauritanian laws, and establish special procedures for juvenile justice (Ecuador);

“Eradicate in law and in practice corporal punishment and the amputation of limbs, child abuse and neglect, female genital mutilation, forced and early marriage, and the forced feeding of girls, as well as issues related to birth registration, and seek technical assistance from United Nations agencies in this regard, as recommended by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (Israel);

“Take measures to reduce widespread child labour and trafficking in children, to raise the age of criminal responsibility and to eradicate corporal punishment of children (Norway);

“Reinforce the legal framework for the protection of children, and remove the provision in the penal code establishing the age of criminal responsibility as 7 years old, as well as the corporal punishment of children, including flagellation and amputation (France);

“Bring the minimum criminal age of responsibility and the minimum age for marriage into line with CRC, and ban any form of corporal punishment (Spain)”

The Government did not respond to the recommendations.

Examination in the second cycle took place in 2015 (session 23). No recommendations were made specifically concerning corporal punishment of children. However, the Government accepted recommendations to bring national laws into line with international norms and to improve legislation addressing domestic violence.[5]


Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations

Session 051 (2009)

(17 June 2009, CRC/C//MRT/CO/2 Concluding observations on second report, paras. 40, 41 and 74)

"The Committee is concerned that the Penal Code provides for the imposition of corporal punishment, including whipping and amputation of children. The Committee notes that corporal punishment is forbidden in schools by Ministerial order, however is concerned that it is still widely practised in schools and the family.

"The Committee recommends that the State party revise its Penal Code in order to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment by law and enforce the prohibition in all settings, including in the family, the schools and alternative childcare. It also recommends that the State party conduct awareness-raising campaigns to ensure that alternative forms of discipline are used, in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the Convention, especially article 28, paragraph 2, while taking due account of general comment No. 8 (2006) on the Right of the Child to Protection from Corporal Punishment and Other Cruel or Degrading Forms of Punishment. The Committee also recommends that the State party seek technical assistance from UNICEF in order to implement relevant programmes in the school environment.

"The Committee recommends that the State party:

a) undertake a systematic assessment of the situation of street children, including in particular talibes, in order to obtain a good understanding of root causes, magnitude, links with other factors, inter alia, poverty, the situation of marabouts, corporal punishment, exploitation, lack of parental responsibility, lack of access to schools and health facilities…."

Read more from Session 051 (2009)

Session 028 (2001)

(6 November 2001, CRC/C/15/Add.159, Concluding observations on initial report, paras. 29 and 30)

"The Committee is concerned that corporal punishment of children is widely practised in the family. It further notes that it is not expressly banned in schools and institutions.

"In light of articles 3, 19, and 28 (2) of the Convention, the Committee encourages the State party to:

a) develop measures to raise awareness on the harmful effects of corporal punishment and engage in the promotion of alternative forms of discipline in families to be administered in a manner consistent with the child’s dignity and in conformity with the Convention; and

b) explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in the family, in schools and in other institutions."

Read more from Session 028 (2001)

Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations

CAT session 050 (2013)

(18 June 2013, CAT/C/MRT/CO/1, Concluding observations on initial report, para. 25)

"Notwithstanding the adoption of Ordinance No. 2005-015 of 5 December 2005 on the judicial protection of children, which establishes prison sentences for persons who commit acts of torture or acts of barbarity against children, the Committee is concerned that corporal punishment of children is not prohibited by law and seems to be even considered a suitable and effective method of education (art. 16).

The State party should:

a)     amend its criminal legislation, including Ordinance No. 2005-015 on the judicial protection of children, to prohibit and explicitly penalize any form of corporal punishment of children in all places and contexts, including within the family, and enforce the principle of education without violence in accordance with article 28, paragraph 2, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child;

b)     carry out programmes involving children, families, communities and religious leaders to educate, sensitize and mobilize the general public about the harmful effects of corporal punishment on the physical and psychological development of the person."

Read more from CAT session 050 (2013)

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Concluding Observations

CEDAW session 038 (2007)

(11 June 2007, CEDAW/C/MRT/CO/1, Concluding observations on initial report, paras. 28 and 29)

"... The Committee is particularly concerned ... about the persistence of patriarchal attitudes that consider the physical chastisement of family members, including women, acceptable....

"The Committee urges the State party to place the highest priority on implementing a omprehensive approach to address all forms of violence against women...."

Read more from CEDAW session 038 (2007)

Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations

HRC session 109 (2013)

(21 November 2013, CCPR/C/MRT/CO/1, Concluding observations on initial report, para. 16 (as at 2 December in French only)

"While noting the State party's adoption of Ordinance No. 2005-015 of 5 December 2005 on the judicial protection of the child, the Committee is concerned that corporal punishment of children in the State party continue and are not explicitly prohibited by law (art. 7 and 24).

The State party should take effective measures to end the practice of corporal punishment in all circumstances. It should encourage the use of non-violent discipline as an alternative to corporal punishment and conduct information to raise awareness of the harmful consequences of such violence campaigns."

Read more from HRC session 109 (2013)

Prevalence/attitudinal research for Mauritania in the last 10 years

Research conducted in 2015 as part of UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) programme, found on average 80% of 1-14 year-old children experienced some form of violent discipline (psychological aggression and/or physical punishment) in the month prior to the survey. On average 72% of children experienced psychological aggression, 42% physical punishment and 27% severe physical punishment (hit or slapped on the face, head or ears, or hit repeatedly). Only 10% of children experienced only non-violent forms of discipline.

(L’Office National de la Statistique (2016), Enquête par Grappes à Indicateurs Multiples, 2015, Résultats clés, Nouakchott, Mauritanie: L’Office National de la Statistique)

According to UNICEF statistics collected in 2011, 87% of children aged 2-14 experienced violent “discipline” (physical punishment and/or psychological aggression) in the home in the month prior to the survey. Seventy-eight per cent experienced physical punishment and 82% experienced psychological aggression (being shouted at, yelled at, screamed at or insulted). A smaller percentage (36%) of mothers and caregivers thought that physical punishment was necessary in childrearing.

(UNICEF (2014), Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children, NY: UNICEF)

Footnotes

[1] “On the Prohibition of Excessive Child Beating in Islamic Shariah (Law): Abstract of a comprehensive social, educational and legal study of the negative impact of child beating, and the rules governing it in Islamic Shariah (law)”, prepared by Professor Imam Hadd Amin Ould Al-Salek, Imam of the Old Mosque, Nouakchott, and President of the Imams and Ulema Coalition for the Rights of Women and Children in Mauritania, June 2009

[2] 6 August 2015, A/HRC/WG.6/23/MRT/1, National report to the UPR, para. 54; see also 23 March 2016, A/HRC/31/2 Advance unedited version, Draft report of the Human Rights Council on its 31st session, para. 288

[3] 4 January 2011, A/HRC/16/17, Report of the working group, paras. 92(30), 92(39), 92(40), 92(42) and 92(45)

[4] 4 January 2011, A/HRC/16/17, Report of the working group, paras. 92(30), 92(39), 92(40), 92(42) and 92(45)

[5] 23 December 2015, A/HRC/31/6, Report of the working group, paras. 126(1), 126(2), 126(3), 126(4), 126(12), 126(39), 126(40) and 126(41)

Child population

1,807,940 (UNICEF, 2013)

National and regional advocacy for law reform

No known campaign for law reform

Forthcoming treaty body examinations and UPRs

Universal Periodic Review (UPR): 2020, session 37, deadline for briefing tbc

Committee Against Torture (CAT): Date of examination tbc, deadline for LOI briefing 26 June 2017

Translation

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