Corporal Punishment: At current rate, 60 years needed to meet 2030 target for global ban to protect children

LONDON/GENEVA, 30 April 2024: It will take another 60 years to meet a global target to eliminate of all forms of corporal punishment unless the current rate of progress is sped up [1], according to Save the Children analysis released on the International Day to End Corporal Punishment.

United Nations’ member states agreed to a 2030 target for the universal prohibition of corporal punishment as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) signed in 2015 to tackle poverty and inequality. However, progress has been slow with about two countries per year enacting a ban, leaving the world far behind its ambitions.

Corporal punishment is the most common form of violence against children worldwide with around 4 in 5 children aged between 2 and 14 experiencing corporal punishment in their home every year [2].

Only 15% of children globally – an estimated 320 million children – are fully protected by law from corporal punishment, with about 66 of around 193 states banning corporal punishment in all settings. Just 20 countries have prohibited corporal punishment in the nine years since the SDGs were adopted, compared with 30 countries in the nine years before 2015.

A further 27 countries have publicly committed to reforming their laws – which if enacted, would protect a further 288 million children [3].

Corporal punishment takes many forms, including smacking or slapping, kicking, shaking, burning and forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions. It also includes non-physical humiliating treatment which belittles the child.

Globally, the physical and mental punishment of children at the hands of parents, teachers and caregivers leads to the deaths of thousands of children every year with many more seriously injured. It also results in the diminished psychosocial wellbeing of countless children and has a profound impact on their healthy development.

Steve Miller, Save the Children’s Global Director Child Protection, said:

“It’s time to accelerate progress. With the target of global prohibition by 2030, we have 6 years – not 60 – to fully protect children from violent punishment.

Corporal punishment is a violation of children’s rights, and its widespread social acceptance normalises a level of violence throughout childhood that can lead to other forms of violence and mistreatment. We call on all countries to prohibit all forms of corporal punishment against children in all settings by 2030 and to listen to children in order to create change.”

Corporal punishment has a devastating and long-term impact on children and the lack of progress in addressing this issue is a global concern. We have an opportunity with the first ministerial conference on ending violence against children taking place later this year to make a concerted effort in achieving the 2030 target.

Any country that prohibits corporal punishment is sending a strong message that they are listening to children. Prohibition makes it clear that children’s rights are respected. It makes it clear that there is nothing acceptable about subjecting children to physical or mental abuse in the home or elsewhere.”

Lack of progress is a global concern. Around half of high-income countries are yet to implement full legal protection, compared to about 70% of middle-income countries and more than 90% of low-income countries [4].

Save the Children’s ‘Safe Families’ programme helps parents to change the relationship with their children from one of power and control to one of mutual understanding and problem solving. We run parallel sessions for parents and children, and instead of a set of fixed instructions, we focus on building stronger families.


Notes to editors:

[1] The 60 years calculation is based on the rate of progress in outlawing corporal punishment in all settings including the home, from September 2015 when the UN Sustainable Development Goals were agreed. In the almost nine years since, a further 20 countries have agreed to ban corporal punishment against children in all settings, making a rate of around two countries per year. To date, 66 of around 200 states have banned corporal punishment in all settings.


[3] Child population data taken from the latest UN World Population Prospects

[4] Country income groupings as per the World Bank.


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