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Laws and Policies

Protective laws and policies are fundamental for addressing SRGBV and protecting children from violence. These regulatory frameworks represent government commitment to addressing SRGBV.

 

‘Clear, unambiguous legislation that places a ban on all forms of violence against children, including violence in school, is a key component of any comprehensive national strategy to address violence against children.’

Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (UNICEF, 2011, p. 30)

 

Legislation refers to the act or process of making laws and implementing them. It establishes rights and entitlements, government duties and obligations (UN Women, 2013b). Legislative frameworks are necessary to ensure that states meet their international obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all people.

  

Practical action: How to develop a legal framework on SRGBV

1

Content appraisal: Look at the current legislative framework and how it relates to SRGBV: are existing laws compliant with international standards? Is new legislation required, or can relevant legal provisions be amended?

2

Assess implementation: Legislation by itself is not enough; laws should be supported by effective regulations and policies that include binding codes of conduct, and appropriate and proportionate sanctions (Greene et al, 2013). What are the weaknesses in implementation? What investments and budget allocations are needed to enforce the law? Are school staff and education officials ready and able to implement?

3

Harmonize existing legislation to ensure SRGBV is included: Legislation and regulations across different sectors may need to be reviewed to ensure there is coherence and to make sure that SRGBV is included in existing laws. It is critical to build consensus among key sectors and agencies, as well as to ensure policy-makers are aware of the need to address SRGBV. There are currently four key areas of legislation where SRGBV can be addressed: 

- General child rights (e.g. Liberia’s Children’s Act (2010) protects the fundamental rights of all children and includes child protection as a mandatory element of teacher training); 

- Corporal punishment (e.g. India’s Right to Education Act (2009) established a national ban on corporal punishment in schools, stating ‘No child shall be subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment’); 

- Sexual violence (e.g. Tanzania’s Law of the Child Act (2009) protects children from all forms of sexual abuse, including in schools);

- Bullying (e.g. the Anti-Bullying Act (2013) in the Philippines requires all schools to adopt an anti-bullying policy).

4

Clearly address SRGBV within a national education sector plan or strategy: Including indicators and targets to track progress, and allocate sufficient resources for monitoring and implementation.

5

Sensitization and advocacy: Finally, those who implement laws – frontline service delivery personnel such as teachers, lawyers or the police – also need to have the knowledge, capacity and support to ensure they are aware of the legislation and can enforce the law. Therefore considerable attention needs to be paid to preparing the sector for action. This will include ensuring teachers, school heads and others fully understand the issues and are prepared to play their roles in implementation. Information and awareness about laws and policies should also go to the general public and to children through child-friendly versions of laws.


Policy frameworks
 are documents that provide a common vision to guide policy and programme development, such as national action plans, ministerial regulations, policy statements, strategic plans, protocols and other mechanisms. Key national policy frameworks for SRGBV include the education framework as well as any frameworks or national action plans on violence against women, children’s rights and the rights of vulnerable or minority groups and others.

Policy frameworks and plans are a key opportunity for national governments to demonstrate leadership on the need to address SRGBV and create an enabling environment. The World Report on Violence against Children notes that:

‘Policies to tackle school violence should recognize that schools are, above all, places of learning and can play an important role in equalising power and eliminating abuses of power.’ (Pinheiro, 2006, p. 142)

Plan’s global Learn without Fear campaign has called for government action to prevent and reduce SRGBV, with the first principle being:

‘Comprehensive and integrated action: Governments must adopt a comprehensive, integrated, and multisectoral action plan to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. The plan should be gender-responsive, take into account the diversity of experiences and needs of marginalised girls and boys, and look speci­fically at the school context.’ (Greene et al, 2013, p. 37) 

However, the majority of countries do not yet have national policies addressing SRGBV. In 2014, 27 out of 100 countries reported progress with regard to national legal and policy frameworks that specify prevention and response mechanisms to SRGBV (UNICEF, 2015).  

Gaps and barriers in national policy frameworks

An international meeting of SRGBV partners in Paris, France (April 2014) identified weak national policy environments as a key challenge to addressing SRGBV, particularly:

  -  limited translation of legislation into policy

  -  poor enforcement of legislation or monitoring of policy implementation

  -  little if any integration of SRGBV into education plans and other public policies (i.e. child protection, violence against women)

  -  few school-level policies on violence or bullying overall, and almost nothing on bullying on the basis of GBV.

 

 

  

Key principles for developing a national SRGBV policyframework

National policy frameworks should:

 

Form part of broader frameworks to eliminate violence against children, implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), strengthen child protection systems and/or realize the goals of Education for All and the Learning without Fear initiative.

 

Involve coordinated intervention at the school, community, regional and national level, with key roles specified for other sectors, such as health, social services, law enforcement, the judiciary, the security forces or military, and child protection authorities.

 

Consult with civil society and ensure that the diverse voices of children and youth are heard, particularly those from marginalized groups and communities.

 

Be accompanied by awareness-raising activities among teachers, school staff, parents and students.

 

Consider gender issues in the prevention and response of violence in schools.

 

Be underpinned by sufficient and credible data on the nature and scope of SRGBV.

 

 

Source: Greene et al (2013); UNGEI/UNESCO (2013) 

Examples of National legislation and policy frameworks on SRGBV around the world 

Belize: The 2010 Education and Training Act prohibits corporal punishment, sexual harassment and pornography in education settings, but does not cover bullying or sexual violence against boys. The act is complemented by new legislation requiring teachers to have adequate training on the issue. 

Peru: Since 2013, Peru’s Ministry of Education has been promoting a National Strategy to prevent School Violence called Paz Escolar (www.pazescolar.pe), with a vision for ‘students to live and learn happily’. As part of this strategy, victims or witnesses of SRGBV can anonymously report incidents on the virtual portal: www.siseve.pe or they can call a free telephone line.

Costa Rica: In 2011, the Government of Costa Rica introduced a National Program on Coexistence in Education Centers (Convivir), which aims to strengthen and improve gender-sensitive and gender-equitable relationships at school. Every school forms a working group to lead the strategy, consisting of a director, teacher, counsellor and two students. The Convivir programme forms part of the broader National Plan for the Prevention of Violence and Promotion of Social Peace 2011–2014.

Norway: In 2002, Norway launched a Manifesto Against Bullying. The manifesto has been renewed several times after the initial two-year launch, and commits school partners (including governments, teaching unions and parents’ committees) to preventing and combating bullying. The manifesto has had the most impact on bullying when the campaign has involved follow-up and links to Norway’s internationally recognized anti-bullying programmes: Zero and Olweus’.

Poland: In 2006, the Ministry of Education launched a ‘zero tolerance’ school reform plan in response to the suicide of a girl after she was sexually molested at school. In 2008, the new government moved to a new policy of ‘Safe and Friendly Schools’, which focused on building a positive social climate and addressing problem behaviours including aggression, drug addiction and alcohol abuse.

Mongolia: In 2006, the Government of Mongolia passed major amendments to the education law, prohibiting all forms of violence in education settings, including corporal punishment and emotional harassment. The new law also introduced a Code of Conduct and mechanisms to monitor and regulate breaches of the Code.

Palestine: The Ministry of Education developed a Plan of Action to Counter Violence in Schools in Palestine.The plan focused on prevention and established special units – a disciplinary school council – to counter violence. It also clearly specified the reporting mechanisms to be adopted within schools. The National Strategy to Combat Violence against Women 2011–2019 also provides a policy framework for SRGBV with interventions: to strengthen the role of student councils and parent councils in schools; to provide SRGBV counselling services; and to update the school curricula to include a mandatory syllabus on violence against women.

Republic of Korea: The Act on Prevention of School Violence stipulates that the government shall take necessary measures to prevent school violence, including drawing up a plan on school violence prevention every five years and creating a committee to monitor the implementation of the plan. All primary and secondary schools are obliged to make and carry out their own action plan to prevent school violence and to hold regular sessions on the prevention of school violence.

Kenya: In 2010, corporal punishment became unlawful in all settings, including schools (Article 29 of Constitution). Kenya’s Sexual Offences Act (2006) also criminalizes both physical and verbal sexual harassment. Sexual offences by people in positions of authority/trust within education settings are also against the law, liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than 10 years.

Nigeria: In 2007, the Ministry of Education adopted a National Policy Framework on Violence Free Basic Education. The framework includes: sensitization of teachers and students; training of education managers; capacity building of education stakeholders (school management committees, parent teacher associations); research promotion; institutionalization of counselling units in all schools; and monitoring and evaluation. 

There are also various examples of legislation at the sub-national level, such as in Brazil and Australia, where several states and municipalities have anti-bullying legislation while no similar legislation exists at a federal level. In contrast, national legislation is often not enforced at the sub-national level, either through failure to enact local legislation or due to weak implementation and follow through. 

Sources include: Fancy and Fraser (2014a); Plan (2012); Plan/UNICEF (2014)


 

 

 


 


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