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

Palestinian authorities should reform criminal laws that provide a defense for corporal punishment in the home in the West Bank and do not clearly prohibit it in the Gaza Strip, and ensure that violent discipline is effectively prohibited in schools.

West Bank

The penal code in force in the West Bank, except for Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, permits corporal punishment by parents.[1]

The Child Law of 2004 states that the government should adopt "decisions or [develop] programs which aim at prohibiting all forms of violence in schools, regardless of the source," and that children are protected from violence.[2] Directives issued by Palestine’s Education Ministry advise against the use of corporal punishment in schools.[3] The Palestinian national education plan for 2015-2019 called for a policy on non-violence, developed with UNICEF in 2009, to be incorporated into teacher training standards.[4]

The Education Ministry’s directive on "violations, procedures and penalties for school personnel" explicitly allows physical punishment: it prohibits "physical violence (beating students and other people in the school), with the exception of cases that are intended for educational discipline for students."[5] The directive instructs school directors to issue two warnings to teachers, then convene a disciplinary board on the third instance; the disciplinary board only addresses cases of "severe violence that leaves traces on the [student’s] body" immediately.

The Palestinian Education Law of 2017 states that the Ministry of Education must "Prohibit the use of violence as a means of discipline, and provide protection for all students," and requires the minister to issue instructions on student discipline in schools.[6]

More than two-thirds of school children across the West Bank and Gaza in classes 1 through 10 experienced violence by other students or by teachers or school staff in 2017; violence by teachers or harassment and bullying by peers were among children’s main reasons for dropping out of school, UNICEF reported.[7] The Palestinian Bureau of Statistics reported in 2011 that 27.6 percent of students ages 12-17 years experienced "psychological violence" by teachers and 21.4 percent were physically attacked by their teachers.[8] Surveys from the West Bank and Gaza in 2019 found that 90 percent of children under 14 experienced violent discipline from caregivers in the past month, including 20 percent who were "beaten up" or slapped or hit on the face or ears.[9]

East Jerusalem

Israel applies its laws to East Jerusalem, part of the occupied West Bank. See "Israel."

Gaza

The British Mandate-era Criminal Code Ordinance, as modified in 2009, in force in Gaza, only punishes assault "occasioning actual bodily harm" as a misdemeanor, and does not explicitly prohibit corporal punishment.[10] The Palestinian Child Law of 2004 states that the government should adopt "decisions or [develop] programs which aim at prohibiting all forms of violence in schools, regardless of the source," and that children are protected from violence.[11] Education Law No. 1 of 2013, in force in Gaza, states that the Education Ministry shall establish codes of conduct including "for punishing those [teaching staff] who … perform any act deemed contrary to the ethics and duties of the [teaching] profession," but does not clearly prohibit violent discipline.[12]

More than two-thirds of school children across the West Bank and Gaza in classes 1 through 10 experienced violence by other students or by teachers or school staff in 2017; violence by teachers or harassment and bullying by peers were among children’s main reasons for dropping out of school, UNICEF reported.[13] The Palestinian Bureau of Statistics reported in 2011 that 27.6 percent of students ages 12-17 years experienced "psychological violence" by teachers and 21.4 percent were physically attacked by their teachers.[14] Surveys from the West Bank and Gaza in 2019 found that 90 percent of children under 14 experienced violent discipline from caregivers in the past month, including 20 percent who were "beaten up" or slapped or hit on the face or ears.[15]

UN Schools (West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) operates more than 700 primary schools for 526,000 Palestine refugee children, including 280,000 students in the Gaza Strip and 46,000 in the West Bank, and the rest in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.[16] UNRWA has prohibited corporal punishment in schools since 1993.

UNRWA initiated a program to combat school violence including corporal punishment in 2002 by teaching children human rights and conflict resolution.[17] An educational regulation defines corporal punishment and establishes investigative and disciplinary procedures to be followed in cases of physical or verbal violence in UNRWA schools.[18] A general staff circular was adopted in January 2013; teachers are asked to sign this circular and commit to not using corporal punishment at the beginning of each school year.[19]

Despite these measures, an UNRWA report in 2014 noted that corporal punishment continues to be a significant concern in UN-operated schools. The majority of cases primarily result in temporary suspension, unpaid or paid leave, or transfer to another school of the offending staff member, according to the report, but some cases "remain unaddressed."[20]

[1] An English translation of the law is available at http://legal.pipa.ps/files/server/ENG%20Panel%20Law%20No_%20(16)%20of%201960.pdf. See also Defense for Children International -Palestine, submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2019 review of Palestine.

[2] Child Law of 2004, Art. 39 and 42.

[3] https://endcorporalpunishment.org/reports-on-every-state-and-territory/state-of-palestine/

[4] Palestine Education Strategy 2014-2019: A Learning Nation, pp. 72, 111, https://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/sites/planipolis/files/ressources/palestine_education_development_strategic_plan_2014_2019.pdf

[5] ; State of Palestine, Decree-Law No. 8 of 2017 on education, Article 4 (15), Article 38, http://muqtafi.birzeit.edu/pg/getleg.asp?id=16927 and ;https://www.wattan.net/data/uploads/bafce6842e81cbbeac9fd6a7f5a5dfdd.pdf.

[6] State of Palestine, Ministry of Higher Education, "School System ; Discipline: Regulations," https://www.mohe.ps/home/%D9%86%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B6%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%AD/#%D9%85%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AF

[7] UNICEF, "Children in the State of Palestine," November 2018, p. 10, https://www.unicef.org/sop/media/341/file

[8] UNICEF, "State of Palestine: Country Report on Out of School Children," July 2018, p. 61, https://www.unicef.org/oPt/OOSC_SoP_Full_Report_EN.pdf

[9] PCBS, "Main Findings of Violence survey in the Palestinian Society, 2011," December 2011, p. 16, http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/portals/_pcbs/pressrelease/el3onf2011_e.pdf (accessed July 21, 2019).

[10] Law No. 3 of 2009, https://learningpartnership.org/sites/default/files/resources/pdfs/Palestine-Penal-Code-Gaza-BritishMandate-Arabic.pdf

[11] Child Law of 2004, Art. 39 and 42.

[12] Education Law No. 1/2013, articles 44, 58-59, http://www.arabwomenlegal-emap.org/document%20legalsystem/%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%88%D9%86%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%20%20%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B7%D9%8A%D9%86%D9%8A%20%D8%B1%D9%82%D9%85%20(1)%20%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%86%D8%A9%202013.pdf.

[13] UNICEF, "Children in the State of Palestine," November 2018, p. 10, https://www.unicef.org/sop/media/341/file

[14] UNICEF, "State of Palestine: Country Report on Out of School Children," July 2018, p. 61, https://www.unicef.org/oPt/OOSC_SoP_Full_Report_EN.pdf

[15] PCBS, "Main Findings of Violence survey in the Palestinian Society, 2011," December 2011, p. 16, http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/portals/_pcbs/pressrelease/el3onf2011_e.pdf (accessed July 21, 2019).

[16] UNRWA, "What we do: Education," "Education in our fields," https://www.unrwa.org/what-we-do/education, accessed January 26, 2021.

[17] IRIN News, "UNRWA takes aim at violence in refugee schools," Dec. 17, 2008, available at   https://www.dailystar.com.lb/ArticlePrint.aspx?id=51205&mode=print

[18] UNRWA Education Technical Instruction (ETI No. 1/08).

[19] UNRWA Child Protection Mapping Report, December 2014, p. 24.

[20] UNRWA Child Protection Mapping Report, December 2014, p. 24.

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