Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Ratification of the CRC
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the primary human rights instrument for children. It has been ratified or acceded to by 196 states (November 2019, all except for the USA).
The obligation to prohibit all corporal punishment of children falls directly under articles 19, 28(2) and 37 of the Convention.
Art. 19: “(1) States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child….”
Art. 28(2): “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child's human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.”
Art. 37: “States Parties shall ensure that: (a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age….”
Article 4 of the Convention emphasises that its implementation necessitates legislative as well as non-legislative measures.
Art. 4: “States Parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention….”
Articles 2, 3, 6 and 12 are regarded as the four general principles underlying implementation of the Convention, providing respectively for non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, the child’s right to life, survival and development, and respect for the views of the child.
General Comments adopted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child
The primary reference for the Committee’s interpretation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in relation to corporal punishment of children is its General Comment No. 8 (2006) on “The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment (arts. 19; 28, para. 2; and 37, inter alia)”. This text consolidates the Committee’s position on corporal punishment of children in the context of its work on the issue and of other international and regional human rights standards, confirms the obligation on states parties to the Convention to reform their laws to prohibit it and provides a benchmark by which to assess whether or not prohibition has been achieved. For example:
- Definition of corporal punishment (para. 11). This definition establishes that the obligation to prohibit corporal punishment applies to all forms of such punishment, “however light”. It is not necessary for states to incorporate this definition in their legislation, but their laws must be sufficiently clear that prohibition applies to all corporal punishment in all settings, without exception.
- The importance of repealing legal defences (paras. 31 and 39). Provisions for “reasonable chastisement”, “right of correction” etc of children are legal defences for punitive assault of children that would not apply to adults. Equal protection for children demands that such defences are repealed.
- Faith-based justification for corporal punishment (para. 29). The right to freedom of religious belief is fundamental, but practice of a religion or belief must be consistent with the right of all persons to respect for human dignity and physical integrity.
- The responsibilities and rights of parents and protection for family life (paras. 27 and 28). States must respect and support families, but it must also ensure children’s human dignity and physical integrity is respected alongside that of other family members. Parents’ responsibility/right/duty to direct and guide children must be consistent with children’s rights under the Convention – there is no justification for physical punishment.
Other General Comments of the Committee may also be referred to, including No. 1 on “The aims of education” (2001), No. 10 on “Children’s rights in juvenile justice” (2007), No. 13 on “The right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence” (2011), No. 20 on "The implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence" (2016), No. 21 on "Children in street situations" (2017) and No. 24 on "Children’s rights in the child justice system" (2019).
The Committee’s recommendations to states parties
Since the very beginning of its work in examining the reports of states parties on their implementation of the Convention, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has raised the issue of corporal punishment of children with governments and recommended it be prohibited, including in the home. By March 2020, the Committee had made 486 observations / recommendations on the issue to 194 states (no recommendations have yet been made to Somalia and South Sudan (since the independence)). Recommendations are consistently to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, including the home, and to support this with relevant measures of implementation. Once states have achieved prohibition, the Committee continues to monitor its implementation and enforcement.
Extracts from the Committee's recommendations to states on corporal punishment of children can be accessed here by session. Recommendations are also included in the individual country reports.
Communications/inquiries under the CRC
Under the Optional Protocol to the CRC on a Communications Procedure, communications can be made to the Committee claiming that the rights of a child or group of children have been violated by the state. Information can also be submitted to the Committee indicating serious or systematic violations of the Convention by the state into which the Committee can make inquiries. The Optional Protocol, which came into force in April 2014, has been ratified by 45 states (September 2019). There have been no communications or inquiries concerning corporal punishment.
- All of the Committee's recommendations are included in the individual country reports for the state concerned
- List of ratifying states
- Full text of the CRC
- General Comment No. 8 (2006) on "The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment (arts. 19; 28, para. 2; and 37, inter alia)"
- All of the Committee's General Comments (available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)
- For information on using communications and inquires procedures to pursue prohibition of corporal punishment of children, email firstname.lastname@example.org