Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on governments in North Africa to outlaw the violent discipline of children.
The rights organisation made the call while introducing an index categorising countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) based on their laws and policies.
Surveys have found that more than 90 percent of children suffer physical punishment at least once a month in countries like Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia.
HRW said that it analysed the situation in 19 countries, finding that most lack the laws needed to end violent disciplinary punishment, while some have laws that explicitly permit it.
‘In many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, assault is a crime when the victim is an adult but excused as if it were “educational” when the victim is a child’, HRW’s MENA Communications and Advocacy Director, Ahmed Benchemsi, said.
‘Ending corporal punishment will be a huge benefit to children and their societies, and it should end now’.
Globally, 62 countries have already prohibited corporal punishment in all settings and 27 more have pledged to do so.
HRW’s index categorises Middle Eastern and North African countries as green, yellow, or red based on their laws and policies on corporal punishment.
The green category includes countries with criminal codes that clearly prohibit corporal punishment in all cases, including at school and at home.
‘Of the 19 countries assessed in the MENA region, only Tunisia and Israel have outlawed corporal punishment in all settings. Following these examples, other governments should make the legal changes needed to protect children’, HRW noted.
‘Other important measures governments should take include public-information campaigns on the harm caused by violent discipline, and training for teachers, parents, and caregivers in positive, non-violent methods of discipline’, it added.
Decades of studies have linked violent discipline to increases in suicidal thoughts, anxiety, domestic violence, criminality, and school dropouts.
‘Ending corporal punishment in schools can lead to increased attendance, lower dropout rates, better learning outcomes, and higher rates of transition to higher levels of education’, the organisation said.
Photo source: Mike McBey