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NA passes law to ban corporal punishment in the capital

In a historic move, the National Assembly passed the ICT Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, which effectively bans all forms of corporal punishment “however light” at the “work place, in all types of educational institutions including formal, non-formal, and religious both public and private, in child care institutions including foster care, rehabilitation centers and any other alternative care settings." The new law will penalize teachers for assault and hurt inflicted upon children, regardless of intention, canceling out the provisions of Section 89 of the PPC which had allowed teachers and guardians to administer physical punishment “in good faith” and “for the benefit” of the child.

This was a private member bill moved by Mehnaz Akbar Aziz of the PML-N.The bill had been passed by the Standing Committee for Education as far back as 2019 but it could not make progress as discussion on it was withheld for 15 months after which it was referred to – and remained stuck with – another committee.

Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari presented an amendment under which complaints put forward by children would be brought before a court or a magistrate instead of leaving the complaint procedures vague which often leads to the formation of committees that do not accomplish much.

“The efforts of civil society, treasury and opposition benches, Justice Athar Minallah, Shehzad Roy - everyone coming together enabled this Bill to be brought before the Senate. But protecting our children requires more than passing this Bill. The rules of business have to be clarified and the mindset that legitimizes corporal punishment needs to be changed through informative awareness campaigns.”  

Earlier, organisations and activists working for child protection impressed upon the parliament to pass this legislation urgently. Musician Shehzad Roy, founder of Zindagi Trust which has been campaigning to get the practice banned since his education TV show in 2013, ramped up their advocacy on the issue in recent weeks and urged key lawmakers to hear the bill on priority. This followed their petition in the Islamabad High Court a year ago which had led to a court order suspending Section 89 and effectively banning corporal punishment. 

Similarly, child rights activists and lawyers Syed Miqdad Mehdi and Ahmar Majeed, whose petition to Lahore High Court (LHC) led to a ban on corporal punishment in all schools after a horrific incident against special children, identified Section 89 as the impediment to any step taken against the cruelty of corporal punishment and demanded its repeal. According to Mehdi, “corporal punishment is against children’s fundamental rights of dignity, survival, development and protection and should be curbed as soon as possible through legislative measures.”   

“When a child gets physical punishment, society is telling them – and an entire generation – that violence is a valid means of resolving a problem. This law will not just protect our children but also lay the foundation for a safer, kinder and more peaceful Pakistan,” said Zindagi Trust founder and musician Shehzad Roy.

Next steps:

This is a historic day but much remains to be done. A survey in 2014 ago showed over 70% of Pakistani teachers think corporal punishment is useful for disciplining students. What is needed urgently? Changing mindsets will require mass awareness campaigns that sensitize educators and caretakers to the harms of corporal punishment and educates them on healthy alternatives like positive disciplining. 

Ensuring this law creates a practical impact necessitates that the federal government make accompanying rules of business - covering referral mechanisms, reporting, penalties as well as systematic national awareness programs - within six months as advised in the law. For context, Sindh passed their Prohibition of Corporal Punishment in 2017, but there are still no rules of implementation developed and communicated, nor any awareness campaign launched in schools. Efforts are also needed to streamline the ban across the country, including in provinces like Sindh and GB that already have the required laws to ban this practice.

Sana Kazmi, Head of Advocacy at Zindagi Trust, highlighted that corporal punishment is also one of the primary reasons children drop out of school in Pakistan, which has one of the highest out-of-school populations in the world:

“The cases that get reported to the media are a minority; of those, the ones that make it to a police report are even fewer; and of those, the ones that get noticed are those in which the abuse is extreme. There are still schoolboys and schoolgirls who have not lost their sight or hearing or lives but are beaten up at school because they like to crack jokes in the classroom. There are still toddlers who have forever sworn off a subject – or worse, school – because of abuse and ridicule meted out for not answering a question correctly.  Thousands of our children are growing up with this trauma, unable to lead healthy, functioning lives, let alone have any hope of becoming productive members of society.”



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