Information for the media

Definition of corporal punishment

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its General Comment No. 8 (2006), defines corporal or physical punishment as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light”.

According to the Committee, this mostly involves hitting (“smacking”, “slapping”, “spanking”) children with the hand or with an implement (a whip, stick, belt, shoe, wooden spoon, or similar) but it can also involve, for example, kicking, shaking or throwing children, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair or boxing ears, forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions, burning, scalding or forced ingestion (for example, washing children’s mouths out with soap or forcing them to swallow hot spices). Non-physical forms of punishment that are cruel and degrading and thus incompatible with the Convention include, for example, punishment which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules the child.

In the view of the Committee, corporal punishment is invariably degrading.


Why prohibit corporal punishment?

The essence of prohibiting corporal punishment is ensuring that children enjoy equal protection under the law on assault, whoever the perpetrator and whether or not the assault is inflicted as “discipline” or punishment. Corporal punishment violates children’s right to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity, as well as their rights to health, development, education and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It is the most common form of violence against children.

Read more on the human rights imperative to prohibit corporal punishment, research on the negative effects of corporal punishment, or see our Frequently Asked Questions


Which states have prohibited?

On this website you can find up to date facts and figures on states that have achieved prohibition and those that have committed to doing so. You can also find individual reports on every state and territory worldwide, which include detailed information on the legality of corporal punishment, coverage of corporal punishment in the Universal Periodic Review, relevant recommendations of UN and regional human rights treaty monitoring bodies and summaries of prevalence/attitudinal research on corporal punishment in the country in the last ten years. 


Stay up to date

The Global Initiative produces global and regional – African (in English and French) and Caribbean – newsletters, providing regular round-ups of global and regional news and developments on corporal punishment, moves towards prohibition, new resources for advocating prohibition, updates from the UN and regional human rights systems and other information. Sign up here to receive our newsletters and occasional news alerts. 


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This is an automatic translation service. Extracts from laws, treaty body recommendations and Universal Periodic Review outcomes are unofficial translations.