Comprehensive laws and social changes are key to eradicate the physical punishment suffered by 1 out of every 2 children in Latin America and the Caribbean
Only 10 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have a total ban on corporal punishment against children
PANAMA CITY, 25 April 2018 – The Convention on the Rights of the Child obliges States parties to prohibit and eliminate all types of violence against minors, including corporal punishment and taking into consideration all the spaces in which they live, including at home. However, in Latin America and the Caribbean, almost half of children experience corporal punishment and only 10 countries, including none in the Caribbean, currently have legislation that totally prohibits corporal punishment against boys, girls and adolescents.
In the region, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela are the countries that have specific legislation to prohibit corporal punishment in all areas, including: the home, the school, alternative care centers and penal institutions.
"A comprehensive and adequately financed legislation is essential, but it is not enough to eradicate the intolerable violence against children. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 2 out of every 3 children under the age of 5 are victims of different forms of violence in their homes. This reality should shake us, move us and engage us. Therefore, social and behavioral changes in families and communities, as well as the implementation of multi-sectoral and intercultural policies, with a gender perspective and a human rights approach, are fundamental to promote a positive upbringing and to guarantee each boy and each girl a life free of violence", said María Cristina Perceval, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, adding:" UNICEF urgently appeals to the governments of the region to ensure the total prohibition of physical punishment in all fields".
Exposure to violence, abuse and neglect during early childhood has a direct impact for the rest of life. According to a recent analysis conducted by UNICEF on official data from 17 countries in the region, girls and boys exposed to severe corporal punishment are 2.4 times less likely to have an adequate development in early childhood, while exposure to violent discipline increases 1.6 times the risk of a girl or a boy showing aggressive behavior towards other children or adults.
In the Caribbean countries, the acceptance of corporal punishment as a method of discipline is almost 3 times greater than in the countries of Latin America. Exposure to violence, abuse and neglect during early childhood has an impact for the rest of life. However, 2 out of every 3 girls and boys under the age of 5 are regularly subjected to violent discipline (emotional aggression or corporal punishment), in the home and the proportion of 3 and 4 year old boys and girls who have an adequate development for their age is lower among those exposed to corporal punishment, and much lower for those who are subjected to severe physical punishment practices.
On the other hand, 1 in 10 adults in Latin America and the Caribbean (11%), consider corporal punishment as an adequate tool to educate children. In the Caribbean countries, the acceptance of corporal punishment as a method of discipline is almost 3 times greater than in the countries of Latin America. Positive discipline measures must be taught and promoted to contribute to the change of harmful attitudes and behaviors, which is why they must be approached from a public policy perspective.
UNICEF calls on the governments of the region to ensure the total prohibition of corporal punishment in all areas; support the implementation of multi-sectoral programs and policies to promote positive parenting; promote norms, values and community mechanisms that support parenting without violence; and generate data and evidence to inform policy and measure progress towards the elimination of violent discipline.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.