Bullying & Human Rights

The term bullying covers many forms of aggressive behavior, from sexual harassment, racial attacks, gay bashing, and hate speech to more subtle forms such as cyberbullying, shunning, and slander. Whatever its motivation and mode, bullying causes mental and physical harm and violates the rights of others:

  • the right to be free from  mental, emotional, and physical violence
  • the right to education
  • the right to a safe working environment.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) states that, “education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, Children’s Convention, 1989) further defines the human rights of children:

  • Children are entitled to protection from, “all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians or family members.” Article 2(2)
  • No child shall be subjected to “arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.” Article 16 (1)
  • Children’s are entitle to protection from, “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child,” including teachers and administrators. Article 19(1)
  • A child’s education should be directed to the development of his or her “personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential” and to development of “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Articles 29 (1) and (2)

Rights come with responsibilities. Everyone has a responsibility to create a safe environment by standing up against violence, harassment, and bullying. When schools and communities do not response to stop bullying, they are failing their responsibility to protect the victim’s human rights. Students also have a responsibility to protect the human rights of others. Only when bystanders take safe and appropriate action can bullying be prevented.

Related Human Rights Documents: