Mongolia bans physical and humiliating punishment of children

On the 17th of March, Mongolia became the 49th State to prohibit physical and humiliating punishment of children in all settings including schools, institutions and homes. The new legislation is a way forward in the efforts to end violence against children in Asia and around the world. 

"Stop Violence Against Children Now!" Photo exhibition, Mongolia. Photographer: D. Davaanyam

“I feel very lucky to have a very committed, motivated group of Save the Children staff who have been involved in advocacy since the beginning along with child rights advocates”, says Mitsuaki Toyoda, Save the Children’s Country Director of Mongolia. 

Mongolia is the first state in the region to achieve this reform, which will come into force on 1st September 2016. The prohibition, as stated in the Law of Child Protection 2016 and the Law on the Rights of Children 2016 reflects an effort and commitment of the Government of Mongolia to children’s rights including their protection from all violence. In Mongolia, where there has been a nearly universal social acceptance in the country of physical and humiliating punishment in child rearing, children have been at the forefront of the campaign to end physical and humiliating punishment, which includes slapping, hitting with implements, forcing to the ground, pinching and pulling hair. Humiliating punishment also includes punishment which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules the child. According to UNICEF's statistics from 2013 in the report Hidden in Plain Sight, 46% of children (1-14 years old) in Mongolia experienced violent discipline (psychological aggression and/or physical punishment).

From the library:

Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children

Released as part of UNICEF’s #ENDviolence global initiative, this report presents aggregated data from a number of internationally comparable survey programmes.

"Stop Violence Against Children Now!" Photo exhibition, Mongolia. Photographer: D. Davaanyam

Globally, there is growing progress towards universal prohibition of the most common form of violence against children: the use of physical and humiliating punishment of children in the family home. According to The Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment against Children, Mongolia marks the 49th state to have enacted a complete ban on physical and humiliating punishment against children, including violence in the family home. At least 52 more states are committed to prohibition. But still there is a long way to go; globally, three out of four children experience violent discipline at home and only 10% of children worldwide are fully protected in law from corporal punishment. 

Mongolia’s transition to democracy and a market economy, which began around 1990, coincided with a number of major global developments for children, including the development of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (ratified by Mongolia in 1990). The effects of these changes are interrelated. In December 2006, after intense campaigning by Save the Children, local NGO’s, and UNICEF, the Mongolian Parliament banned corporal punishment in schools.

An important part of Save the Children’s contribution to the complete ban in 2016 has been advocacy work with many awareness-raising campaigns during the last ten years. This included broadcasted television advertisements, the dissemination of brochures and posters, events, workshops, marches and public exhibitions on harmful psychological and physical consequences of discipline with violence. Children participated actively in the awareness raising campaigns that were done in collaboration with local civil society organisations, UNICEF and the National Human Rights Commissioner.

“After many years of advocacy work on the International Spank Out Day, the public started to understand and their awareness increased on this matter. In addition, the Positive Discipline handbooks and other information provided the solution for bringing up the children, which we continue implementing nowadays as well,” says Darikhand Bayar, Save the Children’s Child Protection and Child Rights Governance Manager in Mongolia.

Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting is a non-violent method of child rearing developed by Save the Children and Professor Joan Durrant from the University of Manitoba. 

From the library:

Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting PDEP (fourth edition)

Parents, communities and governments around the world are recognizing children’s rights to protection from physical punishment and to discipline that respects their dignity. Increasingly, parents are being advised to use “positive discipline”.

In addition to the awareness-raising campaigns, a number of other events were crucial in the process leading to the new legislation. Children were involved in the supplementary report writing process to the UN CRC Committee in 2008 and 2015, where they expressed the wish to have a separate law on Child Protection, which has now passed.  In 2010, Positive Discipline in Everyday Teaching was introduced in 16 schools in Ulaanbaatar and there was a mass mobilization of teachers, parents and students demanding child-friendly schools. Furthermore, in 2012, a new initiative was set to create a model mechanism for child participation in governance and a platform for children to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. The initiative was developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Population Development and Social Protection together with the Municipal Government of Ulaanbaatar City. That same year, the Inter-agency Support Group for the Rights of Children and Young People in Mongolia was formed with the goal to improve the child rights situation in Mongolia through more effective collaboration, coordination and engagement of the participating partner organisations. Finally in 2015, the Parliament decided to draft a child rights and child protection bill. Save the Children supported the process throughout the whole journey to ensure the bill met with international standards. 

"Stop Violence Against Children Now!" Photo exhibition, Mongolia. Photographer: D. Davaanyam

Living a life without violence is the right of all children and is essential to their development. There is significant evidence on the devastating, long-term impacts of physical and humiliating punishment on the wellbeing of girls and boys. Growing up with violence can seriously affect a child's development, dignity, health, and physical and psychological integrity. Children protected from violence are more likely to do well at school, grow up healthy and become successful members of society. Protecting children from violence is an explicit obligation established in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its Optional Protocols. Also, for the first time, the new set of universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a specific target to end violence against children.

From the library:

Working to End Violence Against Children: Save the Children's Child Protection 2016-18 Thematic Plan

Save the Children's child protection thematic plan for 2016-2018 presents Save the Children's goals and targets to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and contributions to Save the Children's 2030 breakthroughs:

On the hard work leading up to the complete ban on physical and humiliating punishment in Mongolia, Save the Children’s Darikhand Bayar recommends other countries trying to achieve the ban to make continuous, sustainable and clear interventions through advocacy work, public awareness raising, capacity building of stakeholders, community interventions and presentation of evidences.

“We really need to shout loudly – ‘We did it! We reached it!’ But definitely, implementation of the law is the most crucial and essential and more work is expecting us in future” states Darikhand Bayar, Save the Children’s Child Protection and Child Rights Governance Manager in Mongolia .

As a children’s rights organization, we believe every boy and girl has the right to be protected against all forms of violence including physical and humiliating punishment, and we are committed to supporting all efforts to achieve this so violence against children is no longer tolerated. We work with families and communities, including fathers, so that children are cared for and governments ban the violent discipline of children at home. 

Text: Elin Sahlin