Corporal Punishment Of Children: Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Index - Morocco

Morocco should clearly ban all corporal punishment of children by law and urgently revise the penal code, which exempts from punishment persons who beat or otherwise commit violence against children if the act causes only "light harm."[1]

The Education Ministry, responding to questions from Human Rights Watch, noted that "given the flaws" in Morocco’s penal code, the government had submitted a draft law to parliament that would explicitly penalize any form of violence against children including "corporal punishment, whether or not it leads to illness or inability to work."[2] The draft has been pending since 2016.

Morocco accepted recommendations to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings during its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in 2012. However, as of 2014, Morocco had "still not prohibited corporal punishment in the home, alternative care settings, day care and schools," and "corporal punishment still constitutes a widespread phenomenon, the vast majority of children having been subjected to violent forms of discipline including, in many instances, severe forms of punishment," according to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.[3] At the UN Universal Periodic Review in 2017, Morocco again accepted recommendations to prohibit all corporal punishment, but stated that it had already "fully implemented" them, in light of the 2011 Constitution’s general prohibition against cruel treatment.[4]

The Ministry of National Education has required school staff to avoid any form of physical or psychological violence against students since at least 1999, and stated that a 2015 memorandum reaffirmed the prohibition.[5] The ministry informed Human Rights Watch that it issued a Student Charter in 2019 that affirms students’ rights to "legal protection" from "physical and moral violence."[6]

A 2005 nationwide study found 87 percent of students had suffered corporal punishment at school, such as blows with iron rulers, and 73 percent of teachers acknowledged inflicting such punishment.[7] The study reported abuses including blows with iron rulers, tying children’s legs together with a rope, blows to the hands and fingertips, slapping, electrocution on the chest, legs and hands, kicking, spanking and making children raise their feet for two hours. We were unable to find more recent national studies or surveys. The number of cases recorded by the ministry, which established a nationwide system to record school violence, is far lower: 0.5 percent of the school population of 6 million students reported complaints of violence in the 2012-13 school year, of which 8 percent – or around 2,400 cases – involved violence by teachers; in 2018-19, according to the ministry, the number of all violence complaints decreased by a further 80 percent.[8] Surveys find that violent discipline continues to be widespread outside of school. A 2019 UNICEF report found that around 90 percent of children ages 2 to 14 in Morocco were subject to violent discipline by parents or caregivers at least once a month.[9] A 2017 UNICEF report found more than 40 percent of caregivers in Morocco think physical punishment is necessary to properly raise or educate children, and that 1 in 4 children ages 2 to 4 were subjected to "severe physical punishment" in the last month.[10]

[1] Penal Code, Article 408.

[2] Draft law No. 10.16. Morocco, Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research, letter to Human Rights Watch, DATE January 7, 2021.

[3] Committee on the Rights of the Child, "Concluding observations on the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Morocco," CRC/C/MAR/CO/3-4, October 13, 2014, paras. 36-37, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRC%2fC%2fMAR%2fCO%2f3-4&Lang=en.

[4] Morocco’s commitment at the UPR, A/HRC/21/3, para. 129.65; Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment, Morocco (op. cit.); Constitution of Morocco, Art. 22.

[5] Instruction No. 807/1999, issued on September 23, 1999, prohibiting beating and violence in educational institutions; Memorandum (issue no. 15-2), January 9, 2015; cited in Morocco, Ministry of National Education, letter to Human Rights Watch, DATEJanuary 7, 2021. See also https://www.medias24.com/newsletters/lives/note-807-99.pdf

[6] Memorandum no. 20 – 0345, issued by the Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education, and Scientific Research on June 5, 2020, pursuant to Framework Law No. 51.17, issued August 9, 2019, Art. 26.

[7] UNICEF, Etude sur la violence envers les enfants aà l’ecoleécole primaire, October 2005, pp. 7, 18, https://www.unicef.org/EtudeViolence_a_lecole_FR_oct05.pdf.

[8] Ministry of National Education, letter to Human Rights Watch, DATE January 7, 2021. There are similar figures from 2013-14, when the ministry recorded 24,000 cases of violence, 7 percent by teachers. UNESCO, Analyse de la situation de la violence en milieu scolaire au Maroc, 2017, p. 21, Fig. 5, http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Rabat/images/ED/20171219AnalyseStituationMaroc.PDF.

[9] UNICEF, Violent Discipline in the Middle East and North Africa Region, January 2019, p. 35, https://www.unicef.org/mena/reports/violent-discipline-middle-east-and-north-africa-region

[10] UNICEF, A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents, Nov. 2017, pp. 32, 25, https://data.unicef.org/resources/a-familiar-face/.

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