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African Human Rights Law Journal

On-line version ISSN 1996-2096
Print version ISSN 1609-073X


O'NEAL, Nicole. Corporal punishment in public schools: A call for legal reform. Afr. hum. rights law j. [online]. 2008, vol.8, n.1, pp.60-78. ISSN 1996-2096.

The use of corporal punishment within the public educational system of African states is unlawful, detrimental to the health and welfare of the children, and an unnecessary impediment to educational excellence in the region. Public school corporal punishment violates several international and regional human rights treaties, customary international law, and may breach jus cogens norms prohibiting torture and recognising a fundamental right to respect for human dignity. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights expressly condemn all forms of corporal punishment. In addition, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child can also be interpreted to prohibit the practice of public school corporal punishment. Most African states have ratified these international and regional human rights instruments; therefore, laws authorising this practice should be repealed and alternative methods should be encouraged through legal reform. This article explains how laws authorising public school corporal punishment breach human rights law, and calls for law reform in African states. In addition to the repeal of such laws, this article suggests legislation that could be implemented domestically to condemn and prohibit this practice.

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