March 2005

UN study on violence: invitation to New Zealanders

Children throughout the world are at risk of violence in nearly every aspect of their lives - in their homes, in schools, on the street, at work, in institutions and in detention.  .

In November 2001 the UN General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to conduct an indepth study of violence against children.  The request followed a recommendation from the Committee on the Rights of the Child, developed after two days of general discussion on violence against children held in 2000 and 2001.  In December 2002, the UN Secretary General appointed Paulo Sergio Pinheiro as an independent expert to conduct the study.

The goals of the study are to:

  • raise international visibility of all forms of violence against children; better understand the causes of the problem and its impact on children, adults and societies; assess existing mechanisms to address violence against children;

  • identify an international action plan to effectively end these abuses.

The committee recommended that the study should cover violence against children within the family and in the home, in schools, in care or residential institutions (both state and private), in work situations, in the streets, in detention facilities and prisons, and also examine violence by police and the use of capital and physical punishment.  The committee recommended that violence should include all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, including sexual abuse, bullying in schools, and corporal punishment.

The study is seeking information about understanding, preventing and reducing violence against children, from NGOs, professional associations, academics, unions, governments and others.  Submissions from children and young people are particularly welcome.  Please note that submissions are requested by 31 March 2005.

UNICEF New Zealand is co-ordinating some NGO comments and recommendations to the UN study, based on New Zealand experience.  If your organisation would like to see the draft submission, comment on it and/or endorse it, contact Beth Wood at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .  The submission will go to the UN Study Group at the end of March.

The draft report from UNICEF and other NGOs includes a comment on the relationship between physical punishment and violence to children.  Here is the draft text:

The link between physical punishment of children and violence to children

In New Zealand, as in many developed countries, physical punishment of children is still legal.  Physical punishment is a risk factor for child abuse.  Approval for physical punishment of children reflects unhealthy views of children, for example, that they are innately bad or naughty, that they are the property of parents who have a right to do as they wish with them and that children do not have the same rights to physical integrity as other people.  Physical punishment is a deeply entrenched and discriminatory tradition in New Zealand.  There is societal and political resistance to change on this issue despite ample evidence that physical punishment can lead to child abuse, damages children's development and is unnecessary as a means of guiding children to behave well.  Legalised violence in the form of physical punishment is one the most obvious ways in which society condones and excuses violence and therefore one of the most critical elements to be addressed if there is to be social change about violence to children.


  • That governments remove all legal permission for physical punishment of children.

  • That governments provide public education about the damage that physical    punishment causes and about alternative positive disciplinary options.

  • That governments explore options to promote social change including the use of community development approaches and taking political leadership on the matter.