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Report updated April 2012

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Child population
22,000 (UNICEF, 2010)

Summary of law reform necessary to achieve full prohibition

Prohibition is still to be achieved in the home, schools, penal system and alternative care settings.

Article 5 of the Children and Young Persons Act confirms “the right of any parent, teacher or other person having the lawful control or charge of a juvenile to administer reasonable punishment to him”. This provision should be repealed and explicit prohibition enacted of all corporal punishment in all settings, including the family home.

All provisions authorising corporal punishment in schools and in the penal system, including article 49 of the Education Act and provisions in the Penal Code, the Magistrate’s Code of Procedure, the Corporal Punishment Act, the Juvenile Offenders Punishment Act, and the Prisons Act and Rules, should be repealed and replaced with explicit prohibition of all corporal punishment. Explicit prohibition should also be enacted in legislation applicable to all alternative care settings, including public and private day care, residential institutions, foster care, etc.

Current legality of corporal punishment

Home

Corporal punishment of children is lawful in the home. Article 5 of the Children and Young Persons Act (1970) confirms “the right of any parent, teacher or other person having the lawful control or charge of a juvenile to administer reasonable punishment to him”. Provisions against violence and abuse in that Act and in the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act (2001), the Offences Against the Person Act and the Small Charges Act are not interpreted as prohibiting corporal punishment in childrearing. In Dominica’s initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2003, the Government stated that a Families and Children Act and a Domestic Violence Act were being considered for adoption (CRC/C/8/Add.48, para. 32), but they appear not to have been enacted.

As part of an initiative to reform child laws in the region, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) circulated a number of draft laws for consideration by member states, including Dominica. The draft Children (Care and Adoption) Bill (2007), under consideration by the attorney-general, would protect children from “abuse” but not prohibit corporal punishment. It would define parental responsibility with reference to the duties, authority, rights and obligations “which by any law in force in [Dominica], the parent of a child has in relation to that child” (article 2).

Schools

Corporal punishment is lawful in public and private schools under article 49 of the Education Act (1997), which states that it may be inflicted only by the principal, deputy principal or a designated teacher “where no other punishment is considered suitable or effective”.  Article 5 of the Children and Young Persons Act also applies (see above).

Penal system

Corporal punishment is lawful as a sentence for crime. The Juvenile Offenders’ Punishment Act (1881) provides for any High Court Judge to order a boy under 14 who has been convicted of any offence “to be as soon as practicable privately whipped”, in lieu of or in addition to any other punishment (article 2). The whipping shall be up to 12 strokes with a tamarind rod, in the presence of a police officer and, if desired, the boy’s parent/guardian; a medical practitioner should certify the boy fit to receive the punishment but this requirement can be dispensed with if no medical practitioner is available within 24 hours (article 3). Under the Corporal Punishment Act (1987), a court may sentence a boy under 16, convicted of any offence, to corporal punishment in lieu of or in addition to any other punishment; if the sentence is passed by a Magistrate’s Court it must be confirmed in the High Court before being carried out (article 3). The High Court may pass a sentence of corporal punishment on any male convicted of rape, sexual intercourse with a girl under 14, or attempting or aiding these offences (articles 4 and 5). It should be inflicted as soon as possible, up to 12 strokes on the buttocks for a boy under 16, 24 for older males, using a tamarind rod for those under 18 (articles 7 and 8). The flogging should be carried out in the prison; for boys under 16, it could be administered in a police station; a medical officer must certify that the person is fit to undergo the punishment (article 9). On ratifying the American Convention on Human Rights, Dominica made a reservation on article 5 (the right to humane treatment), stating that it “should not be read as prohibiting corporal punishment administered in accordance with the Corporal Punishment Act of Dominica or the Juvenile Offenders Punishment Act).

The Children and Young Persons Act does not specifically mention corporal punishment as a way of dealing with juvenile offenders but refers to the Magistrate’s Code of Procedure Act (1961), which allows a magistrate to order the “private whipping” of a male child or young person (article 100). The Offences Against the Person Act also provides for “private whipping” (article 71).

A Child Justice Bill, drafted in 2007 by the OECS, has been sent to the attorney-general. It does not include corporal punishment among permitted sentences, though it does not explicitly prohibit it.

Corporal punishment is lawful as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions. Under the Children and Young Persons Act, a juvenile in conflict with the law may be detained in a government training school or a prison. Government training schools are governed by the Children and Young Persons Welfare Act (1972) and the Government Training School Act (1970), neither of which prohibits corporal punishment. Young people under 18 may also be sentenced to imprisonment. Article 33 of the Prisons Act (1877) and articles 47 and 48 of the Prison Rules (1956) allow visiting justices to order corporal punishment for breaches of discipline. The draft Child Justice Bill does not prohibit corporal punishment in institutions accommodating children in conflict with the law.

Alternative care

The Education (Early Childhood) Regulations (2003) explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in early childhood education facilities (article 54), but it is lawful in other alternative care settings under article 5 of the Children and Young Persons Act. Corporal punishment would not be explicitly prohibited by the OECS draft Children (Care and Adoption) Bill, which states that a person authorised to provide care for a child shall “correct and manage the behaviour of the child” (article 29(c)) and authorises the Minister to make regulations for “the management and discipline of an approved child care service” (article 140(2)(m)).

Prevalence research

None identified.

Recommendations by human rights treaty bodies

Committee on the Rights of the Child

“The Committee is deeply concerned at the wide use of corporal punishment in the State party. It also notes with concern that corporal punishment is mentioned in the Education Act of 1997 and that the Magistrate Code of Procedure allows the whipping of a male child or a young person.

“The Committee recommends that the State party:

  1. remove all provisions from laws that allow corporal punishment and explicitly prohibit corporal punishment by law in the family, schools and other institutions;
  2. continue the constructive dialogue with political leaders and the judiciary with the aim of abolishing corporal punishment;
  3. continue to strengthen public education campaigns among community leaders, school administrators and parents about the negative consequences of corporal punishment of children, and promote positive, non-violent forms of discipline as an alternative to corporal punishment;
  4. establish an effective mechanism, either separate or as a part of a mechanism that includes dealing with child abuse, to receive, monitor and investigate complaints, including intervening where necessary, and ensure that victims of corporal punishment have access to assistance for recovery….

“The Committee is concerned at the lack of juvenile courts and at the fact that children may be sentenced to a penalty at the “President’s pleasure”, to life imprisonment and to whipping in private.

“The Committee also recommends that the State party:
b) abolish the sentences of whipping and life imprisonment….”

(30 June 2004, CRC/C/15/Add.238, Concluding observations on initial report, paras. 28, 29, 46 and 48)

Universal Periodic Review

Dominica was examined in the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in 2009. The Government rejected the recommendations to prohibit corporal punishment of children, stating that corporal punishment in schools is not applied arbitrarily and that the Government has no intention of removing corporal punishment from the statute books 8 February 2011, A/HRC/13/56, Report of the Human Rights Council on its thirteenth session, paras. 585 and 586). Examination in the second cycle is scheduled for 2014.

This analysis has been compiled from information from governmental and non-governmental sources, including reports on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every effort is made to maintain its accuracy. Please send us updating information and details of sources for missing information: info@endcorporalpunishment.org.

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