Corporal Punishment
Of Children

Human Rights Watch’s Index for
the Middle East and North Africa

All illustrations © 2020 Dadu Shin for Human Rights Watch

Only the worst incidents, or the ones caught on camera, make the news. A boy in Algeria was badly injured in the eye when his math teacher hit him with a stick.[1] A mobile-phone video of a teacher in Saudi Arabia whipping 13 boys with a cane caused an uproar.[2] A teacher in Egypt beat a fifth-grade girl and cut off a hank of her hair for coming to class without wearing a hijab, which is not even part of the school uniform.[3] A school director in Iran beat a seventh-grade student unconscious, then failed to inform his parents until they came to pick him up at the end of the school day. [4] A 9-year-old boy in Erbil, Iraq, died after being hit in the head by his teacher.[5]

These egregious cases reflect a widespread reality in the Middle East and North Africa. The region has some the world’s worst rates of violent punishment of children – in some countries, 90 percent of children or more were subject to physical or verbal abuse each month. Countries began to ban corporal punishment in the 1970s, as research showed it not only failed to improve children’s behavior, but was linked to increases in suicidal thoughts, anxiety, aggression, domestic violence, criminality, and school drop-outs. But children in the Middle East and North Africa are still being physically abused, at home and at school, and in other settings as well. This study shows what each country needs to do to protect children, and end the use of corporal punishment.

No laws or regulations banning violent discipline, or regulations are contradicted by criminal laws that exempt violent discipline from penalty. The practice is common.
Laws, regulations, or policies ban violent discipline in some settings, or the government has committed to end the practice. But it is not fully prohibited, and the practice is still common.
Laws ban all violent discipline.



[1] Alg24, “Vidéo – Un élève grièvement blessé à l’œil par son enseignante à Batna,” October 1, 2018,


[3] AFP, “Egypt teacher held for beating student over hijab,” March 24, 2015, (accessed July 10, 2019).

[4] 24 January 2019,

[5] Bas News, “Nine-Year-Old Iraqi Student Dies after Beaten by School Teacher,” December 12, 2018,