Corporal punishment of children and the Convention on the Rights of the Child – 30 years of progress

20 November marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. In the time since the Convention was first adopted, we have seen astounding progress towards universal prohibition and elimination of corporal punishment. In 1989, four states had prohibited all corporal punishment of children – Austria, Norway, Finland and Sweden. Today, 58 states worldwide have recognised this fundamental right for children.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child – the body that monitors the implementation of the Convention – has played a large part in this progress and is still now a force for change. Since its creation in 2001, the Global Initiative has worked closely with the Committee: we successfully lobbied for a General Comment on children’s right to protection from corporal punishment, which was published by the Committee in 2006, and we have systematically submitted shadow reports on the issue when the Committee reviews states' implementation of the Convention – amounting to over 320 shadow reports to date! Almost every signatory state has now received at least one recommendation from the Committee on tackling corporal punishment of children.

This work has been successful in making corporal punishment more visible as a human rights issue, and placing the urgent need to prohibit and eliminate its use high on the international agenda. We are now seeing other human rights monitoring bodies, both UN and regional, including the issue in their ongoing work and jurisprudence. At the same time, an ever-growing body of research provides unquestionable evidence of the negative health and behavioural outcomes associated with corporal punishment, particularly regarding the impact on public health and societal violence. The importance of ending corporal punishment to ending all violence against children was also highlighted by Indicator 16.2.1 of the Sustainable Development Agenda which tracks children's experience of violent "discipline" in the home.

This has all led to improved understanding among governments and international actors about the impact of corporal punishment and the need to prohibit its use in legislation in order to strengthen child protection systems. Some governments are leading the way in championing the issue but 30 years after the adoption of the CRC, in a world where we are seeing push-back against human rights and activism, some states have been reluctant to accept and implement recommendations to prohibit and eliminate corporal punishment of children, applying instead a rather selective interpretation of their human rights obligations. This includes some states that in other contexts would be seen as world leaders, and some that have made strong public commitments to end violence against children. But human rights are not optional, and children’s rights are not lesser.

Corporal punishment – the most common form of violence against children – violates children’s human dignity. Under the Convention, states have an immediate and absolute obligation to prohibit it in all its forms and to act to effectively implement this ban. So on the 30th anniversary of the Convention, we pledge to keep working with the Committee on the Rights of the Child, governments and civil society partners all over the world to ensure that every child is protected from corporal punishment, and that no child is left behind.  


The work of the Global Initiative is not over – only 12% of the global child population are protected from all forms of corporal punishment! Help us to continue our work and ensure equal protection for all children by donating today.

The [Global Initiative] has really helped put the issue on the global agenda. [Their] briefings (…) are invaluable in our examination of State Parties.”

Kirsten Sandberg, Former Chairperson and member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2011-2019)



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