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Alternatives to corporal punishment

photo of children

Corporal punishment is when a person in authority uses physical force with the intention of causing pain or discomfort for disciplinary purposes. Corporal punishment of children usually includes things like smacking, slapping, spanking or beating with the hand or with some implement (like a stick or a belt). It can also involve other things, like kicking, shaking, pinching or burning.

Many international and regional agreements to which Namibia is a party guarantee respect for human dignity and prohibit the use of degrading treatment or punishment:

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
  • African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Convention Against Torture.

The legal position on corporal punishment in Namibia centres around Article 8 of the Namibian Constitution, which protects human dignity and prohibits “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Shortly after Independence, the Namibian Supreme Court found that Article 8(1) of the Namibian Constitution prohibits corporal punishment by any “organ of state”, which includes corporal punishment in government schools and as a punishment for adult or juvenile criminal offenders. This ruling was codified in section 56(1) of the Education Act of 2001 which makes it a form of misconduct for a teacher or other employee at any school or hostel – including both government schools and private schools – to impose or administer corporal punishment

The draft Child Care and Protection Bill which is currently under discussion would follow suit as it now stands, by providing that parents or anyone else with control of a child must respect the child’s Constitutional right to dignity. The current draft stops short of explicitly outlawing corporal punishment in the home, since our courts have not yet examined it in this context; it draws on the language of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and attempts to provide a basis for allowing law and practice to evolve towards greater respect and protection for children’s dignity in the administration of discipline. The draft bill goes further when it comes to alternative care, by unequivocally forbidding anyone to administer corporal punishment to a child at places of safety, places of care (such as a crèche or a day care centres) early childhood development centres or residential care facilities for children. These institutions would all be registered and monitored by the government in terms of the forthcoming law, so it appears that the Supreme Court judgment would apply in those contexts.

As of August 2010, at least 31 countries have explicitly forbidden the use of corporal punishment in the home. Most have done so by means of legislation, although a few such as Italy and Nepal have prohibited corporal punishment through court rulings.

The Legal Assistance Centre believes that corporal punishment in the family can be damaging to the dignity and development of the child, given that it takes place in the context of what is supposed to be one of the closest and most loving relationships in a child’s life. To help address the use of corporal punishment, and to provide information about alternatives, GR&AP has produced the following materials:

comic on alternatives 1 comic on alternatives 2 alternatives to cp poster cp report research brief

The Legal Assistance Centre also conducts workshops aimed at educating community members about alternatives to corporal punishment

Read an article from our archive (2013): Dignity, non violence and respect for the law; (2010): Discussion calls for effective alternatives