From prohibition to elimination
The ultimate goal of state action to fulfill children's right to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading treatment or punishment is to ensure that no child ever experiences it, by eliminating its use altogether.
Achieving prohibition in law sends a clear message that hitting and hurting a child, for whatever reason, is wrong, just as hitting and hurting adults is wrong, and when breached the law can be enforced appropriately according to the circumstances of the case.
But implementing the law is not only about responding to adults who violently punish children. It is also about transforming attitudes and practice so that physical punishment is no longer seen as acceptable in childrearing and education. It is about working towards a society where no assault on a child, however light, can conceivably be thought of as "reasonable".
Preliminary list of measures needed to accompany/follow prohibition
- Wide dissemination and explanation of the law and its implications
- Detailed guidance, for all involved, on how the law prohibiting violent punishment should be implemented in the best interests of children
- Communication of children's right to protection from corporal punishment and all other cruel or degrading forms of punishment to children and adults
- Promotion of positive, non-violent forms of discipline to the public, children, parents, other carers, teachers, etc
- Dissemination of information on the dangers of corporal punishment
- Integration of implementation/enforcement of the prohibition into the national and local child protection system
- Identification of key public figures and a wide range of partners who can support implementation of the law and transformation of attitudes
- Attraction of necessary resources
- Evaluation of the impact of law reform and other measures, through a baseline survey and regular follow-up surveys, interviewing children and parents
Planning for change
A national plan should be developed by the government with other potentially active partners on how to progress from prohibition to elimination. This could be a distinct plan or an integral element in a national plan to eliminate all forms of violence against children.
A review is likely to be needed, covering:
- what action there has been - including development of programmes and materials - challenging corporal punishment in the home and family, local community, schools and other institutions, all forms of alternative care and day care, child labour and penal systems for children
- the structures of all relevant national and local services impacting on children and families which could be used as a communications vehicle to support the move away from violent punishment
- available research on the prevalence of and attitudes towards violent punishment of children.
Possible channels and opportunities/contact points for communication of key messages
- Birth registration
- Pre- and post-natal services
- All other health service and health practitioner contacts with parents, future parents and children
- Pre-school entry, school entry, school curriculum and informal educational settings
- Social and welfare services in contact with children (including children in all non-family settings) and with families
- Initial and in-service training of all those working with and for families and children, including teachers, care workers, etc
- Elements of civil society in contact with children and families, including religious/faith groups
- Mass media, internet, social networking, etc