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Forms of Violence: **Judicial use of physical punishment**

12/03/2011  | Child Rights International Network



What is the problem?

According to the UN Study on Violence Against Children (UNVC, 2006: 199), corporal punishment as a sentence for children who have been convicted of offences is permitted in 31 States and territories. For example, Malaysia’s Child Act allows the whipping of children found guilty of an offence.

More recent research by CRIN as part of our campaign on the inhuman sentencing of children, concluded that in at least seven States, child offenders can lawfully be sentenced to death by lethal injection, hanging, shooting or stoning. While in at least 40 States, children can still be sentenced to whipping, flogging, caning or amputation.

As part our commitment to the campaign, we are producing country reports on the issue of inhuman sentencing, for example you can read more about the situation in Malaysia here, or in other countries here

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern about the judicial use of physical punishment in States such as Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

Sentencing child offenders to corporal punishment has been consistently denounced by UN Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures and by regional human rights mechanisms as a violation of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture all prohibit inhuman or degrading punishment.

Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires States Parties to ensure that, “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.” 

Read a detailed paper on human rights standards in relation to the inhuman sentencing of children here

What can be done?

Clearly, the first step is to change the law so that all forms of the judicial use of physical punishment of children are prohibited throughout the world. CRIN understands that international campaigning alone is unlikely to force governments to move quickly enough to prohibit inhuman sentencing. But we hope that coordination and solidarity – achieving linked campaigns internationally, across regions and nationally – can accelerate change. Read more on campaign coordination here.

Some States say that such sentences are no longer implemented in practice for child offenders. But this is a completely inadequate response. While the law still authorises inhuman sentencing, the possibility of these gross violations occurring persists. The law has to be clear and clearly disseminated to the public and to all involved in justice systems.

CRIN’s campaign also notes the important role of medical practitioners, who may be complicit in the committal of violence acts against children. Read more about their role, and the standards applicable, here

For more resources on the judicial use of punishment against children, click here



 UN Study on Violence Against Children (2006). Accessible at: