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

The UAE should fulfil its commitment to ban all corporal punishment, which remains lawful.

The Child Protection Law of 2016 provides that "the State shall … ban all forms of violence in educational institutions and maintain the dignity of the children," but explicitly recognizes "the rights of parents and their equivalents to discipline their children" within "the limits of Sharia and the law."[1] According to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, the UAE’s "legal provisions against assault and violence are not interpreted as prohibiting corporal punishment."[2] The government committed to ban corporal punishment in all settings at its UN Universal Periodic Review in 2018.[3]

The Education Ministry prohibits corporal punishment in public and private schools.[4] According to local news reports, the ministry reiterated the ban on corporal punishment, and prohibited the practice of barring bathroom breaks and verbal humiliation of students, in the amended 2017 Code of Conduct for teachers and school staff.[5] In November 2019, the ministry launched a Child Protection Unit to protect "children from all forms of harm, negligence and abuse which they may experience at school or home," with a hotline.[6]

Data are not available about the prevalence of violent discipline in schools, and the UAE did not reply to Human Rights Watch’s request for information. Violent discipline by caregivers appears widespread. According to a UNICEF report from 2019, based on between 40 to 60 percent of 2- to 14-year-olds in the UAE had been subjected to psychological aggression, the same percent range had suffered physical punishment, and 10 to 20 percent severe physical punishment.[7] In the UAE Global School Health Survey, in 2005, 31.9 percent of students said they had been "physically attacked one or more times" in the last year, but the attackers are not disaggregated.[8]

[1] Articles 32(3), 2(2), Federal Law No. 3 of 2016, in English at, in Arabic at

[2] Global Coalition to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, "Country Report for the United Arab Emirates," updated July 2018,

[3] Universal Periodic Review – United Arab Emirates, Third Cycle, 22 January 2018, "Matrix of recommendations," recommendations 141.196 and 141.197,

[4] Ministerial Decision No. 454/2 (1998), Art. 9, cited in "Ending corporal punishment in schools: Global report 2011," Global Initiative to Ban All Corporal Punishment of Children, p. 9.

[5] Salam al Amir, "Teachers told not to mock pupils in new UAE education code of conduct," The National, October 3, 2017,

[6] Ministry of Education, "MoE launches Child Protection Unit initiative," November 29, 2019,

[7] UNICEF, Violent Discipline in the Middle East and North Africa Region, January 2019, Maps 1, 2 and 3, pp. 51, 52.

[8] WHO, Global School Health Survey, UAE, 2005, p. 29,