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The government should make it a priority to end violence against children whether in the home, school or elsewhere, five human rights organizations said today in joint letters to Kenya’s ministers of education, gender and children affairs, and justice.

Even though officials in 2007 welcomed a UN study on violence against children, little has been done to implement the study’s recommendations.

“Corporal punishment must be abolished in all settings,” said the letter signed by Human Rights Watch, African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), The Cradle, Kenya Alliance For Advancement of Rights of Children (KAARC), and Children Legal Action Network (CLAN). The organizations said a full ban on corporal punishment could be achieved “through amendments to the Children’s Act and the Education Act, which are currently being prepared for vote in parliament.”

The letter stressed that the new ministers will have a crucial function in protecting the rights of young Kenyans. The ministers were appointed as members of a coalition government in April 2008 following extensive political violence in Kenya.

Corporal punishment in schools continues, though physical abuse was outlawed in 2001, and a legal notice specifically prohibits corporal punishment in schools. In interviews carried out in 2007, pupils described to Human Rights Watch how some teachers cane children, while others resort to different forms of physical punishment; some children have suffered lasting injuries.

The letter also urges the new government ministers to provide training, raise awareness, and institute programs that better monitor teachers and others responsible for or working with children; and to ensure compliance with the ban on corporal punishment. It calls on the government to “take a lead in implementing the recommendations of the UN Study on Violence against Children, and for that purpose, set up a task force to develop and implement a national strategy or plan of action on ending violence against children.”

The UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children, presented to the UN General Assembly in October 2006, was welcome by the previous Kenyan government, which hosted a regional launch in 2007. However, Kenya has failed to take any meaningful steps to implement the study’s recommendations.

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