African meeting on UN study on violence against children urges ban on beating

21 July 2005

A three-day regional African consultation on United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan’s Study on Violence against Children has ended with a call for a total ban on corporal punishment, blamed by delegates for instilling a culture of violence in youngsters.

A three-day regional African consultation on United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan’s Study on Violence against Children has ended with a call for a total ban on corporal punishment, blamed by delegates for instilling a culture of violence in youngsters.

“Hitting or smacking children is a type of violence,” the Independent Expert on the UN Study, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, told the conference. “Violence used as a means of discipline, despite its devastating effects on the child, should never be viewed as legally or culturally acceptable.”

The consultation for Eastern and Southern Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa, was one of a series of regional events being held worldwide to prepare reports on how children are affected by violence in five settings: the home and family; schools and other institutions; work situations; the community; and on the streets.

Recommendations from the consultations will feed into the global study mandated by Mr. Annan in 2001 for completion next year. In addition to exploring the forms, causes and impact of violence affecting children and young people, the study will also review legal and institutional responses in the battle against violence.

Delegates noted that while most countries in eastern and southern Africa outlawed corporal punishment to some degree, it remained prevalent in homes, where it is hidden from public view and often enjoys legal protection through civil and customary laws.

Where legislation adequately proscribes the practice, the lack of capacity to monitor violations and enforce the law means that smacking of children continues largely unabated.

“Children who grow up in an environment that tolerates physical abuse eventually learn to accept it as a way of life,” said Peter Newell of the Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment of Children. “Hitting children teaches them bad behaviours.”

In their opening statement at the consultation, child delegates called for stiffer penalties against corporal punishment, saying the beatings made them feel less human. “They make us feel bad about ourselves,” they declared.

As well as ending corporal punishment, the consultation discussed the role of HIV/AIDS and poverty in fuelling violence against children. Recent trends in Eastern and Southern Africa, the region most affected by HIV/AIDS, indicate an increasing vulnerability to violence of orphans and children affected by AIDS.

Without the means to ensure basic survival, and with no recourse to protective social safety nets, many children are forced into commercial sex trade, child labour, or early marriage.

 

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