VIOLENCE: Kenya's new Constitution prohibits all corporal punishment

The new Constitution adopted this month in Kenya protects every person from corporal punishment, making Kenya the second African state this year to legally protect children from all corporal punishment in all settings, including the home.

Article 29 of the Constitution states that every person "has the right to freedom ad security of the person, which includes the right not to be ... (c) subjected to any form of violence from either public or private sources; (d) subjected to torture in any manner, whether physical or psychological; (e) subjected to corporal punishment; or (f) treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading manner". Article 20(1) states: "The Bill of Rights applies to all law and binds all State organs and all persons." And article 53 confirms that every child has the right "to be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices, all forms of violence, inhuman treatment and punishment, and hazardous or exploitative labour".

The effect of the prohibition in the new Constitution is immediate: article 2(4) renders void any law, including customary law, that is inconsistent with the Constitution. There are various provisions in Kenyan law which justify or authorise corporal punishment, in conflict with the new Constitution. These will need to be reviewed and amended, including repeal of "the right of any parent or other person having the lawful control or charge of a child to administer reasonable punishment on him" from article 127 of the Children Act 2001 and of the authorisation of corporal punishment in schools in article 11 of the Education (School Discipline) Regulations.

Kenya is the 29th state worldwide to prohibit all corporal punishment of children, following closely the achievement of prohibition in Tunisia and Poland.

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