3 Dec 2010

European human rights body pushes UK to ban all spanking as a violation of children's rights

The Guardian - U.K. April 25, 2010

Europe presses UK to introduce total ban on smacking children

The Council of Europe says London needs to comply with 1998 ruling that said smacking violates children's rights

Afua Hirsch, legal affairs corespondent

The UK will come under increasing pressure to ban all smacking and corporal punishment of children as the European human rights body steps up pressure for a change in the law.

The Council of Europe – which monitors compliance with the European convention on human rights – will criticise the UK because it has not banned smacking more than 10 years after a ruling in 1998 that the practice could violate children's rights against inhuman and degrading treatment.

"The campaign to abolish corporal punishment across the Council of Europe is gathering momentum; 20 countries have formally abolished laws allowing it in the past three years," said Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, deputy secretary general of the Council of Europe.

"The UK is one of the countries that has not yet implemented a full ban. In part, this is because the traditional parent-child relationship in the UK is one of authority [and] state intervention into family affairs is still not welcome," she added.

We are talking about fundamental human rights," she said. "Not only do children have the same human rights as adults, but they are more vulnerable than adults. They need more protection and not less."

Current law prohibits the use of force against children, but gives adults in the home and in some part-time schools and religious institutions a defence to the charge of assault in cases of mild force where they can show the punishment was reasonable.

The first ban on smacking was not introduced in the UK until 1987, then extended to independent schools in 1999. Further laws passed in the past decade have prohibited the use of corporal punishment in children's homes and state care.

Since 2004, the law has changed further to make it harder for parents, or adults "in loco parentis", to use the defence of reasonable punishment when they could otherwise be charged with assault.

Concerns remain about smacking at home and in part-time educational institutions such as weekend faith schools, where adults using "reasonable force" can avoid prosecutions. Last month, Sir Roger Singleton, the government's independent adviser on child safety, published a report that recommended smacking should be banned in all places outside the home, citing particular concern about part-time schools and places of worship.

"Protection against physical punishment should be extended to all forms of care, education and instruction outside the family," Singleton said.

However, the report stopped short of recommending a change in the law that allows parents to use corporal punishment within the home.

"I have concluded that any attempt to define those family categories or circumstances to which the availability of the defence ought or ought not to apply would be cumbersome, bureaucratic, largely impractical and very difficult to communicate," Singleton said.

None of the three main parties have any specific policy on corporal punishment in their election manifestos. Earlier this year, two Liberal Democrat MPs attempted to introduce a clause in the children, schools and families bill which would have limited the lawful use of corporal punishment to parents and those with parental responsibility.

Ed Balls, the children's secretary, has indicated that the government would support a ban on smacking outside the family, but not a full ban. "Sir Roger's report makes it absolutely clear that a child should not be smacked by anyone outside their family. I believe this is a sensible and proportionate approach," Balls said. But the Council of Europe is increasingly critical of the UK's approach, likening the campaign to the move towards the abolition of the death penalty."Specific places cannot be exempt from rights," said De Boer-Buquicchio. "Rights pertain to human beings wherever they are and in whatever circumstances and whatever the setting."

This article was found at:



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  1. Only suitable for minors?:

    Schoolchildrens' "spanking" related injuries (WARNING - These images may be deeply disturbing to some viewers. Do not open this page if children are present).

    Reasonable and moderate? You decide.
    (WARNING - This sound recording may be deeply disturbing to some listeners. Do not open this file if children are within listening range).

    People used to think it was necessary to "spank" adult members of the community, college students, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual battery if a person over the age of 18 is "spanked", but only if over the age of 18.

    For one thing, because the buttocks are so close to the anal region, sex organs, and so multiply linked to sexual nerve centers, striking them can trigger powerful and involuntary sexual stimulus in some people. There are numerous physiological ways in which it can be intentionally or unintentionally sexually abusive, but I won't list them all here. One can read the testimony, documentation, and educational resources available from the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at www.nospank.net

    Child bottom-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child bottom-battering (euphemistically labeled "spanking","swatting","switching","smacking", "paddling",or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-battering isn't a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson

    by Lesli Taylor MD and Adah Maurer PhD

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-battering isn't a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    American Psychological Association,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    Churches' Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus' Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

    In 31 nations, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The US also has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

    The US states with the highest crime rates and the poorest academic performance are also the ones with the highest rates of child corporal punishment.

    There is simply no evidence to suggest that child bottom-battering instills virtue.

  2. Smacking children ban moves step closer in Wales

    by Steven Morris, Guardian October 19, 2011

    The prospect of parents being banned from smacking children in part of the UK has moved a step closer. Members of the Welsh assembly have approved a call to withdraw the defence of "legal chastisement" that is currently available to parents.

    The Welsh government believes it could introduce legislation to outlaw smacking – but has ruled out doing so before 2016. Christine Chapman, one of the backbenchers who put forward a motion to the assembly to outlaw smacking, said she was delighted that members had backed the principle of a ban. She said: "This is a moral victory, an important step. But in the end we must get legislation against smacking."

    Chapman said the UK was "out of step" with many countries around the world that had outlawed slapping. It was against the law to hit adults and it was "nonsensical" that it was deemed acceptable to hit children, she said. During the debate at the Senedd in Cardiff Kirsty Williams, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: "To argue that a smack or physical chastisement of children is done under controlled and carefully thought-through circumstances is simply in the vast majority of cases a myth. But it is not a myth that what starts off in some cases as a simple smack can escalate hugely to some serious damage."

    Plaid Cymru AM Lindsay Whittle said: "We have prayed for the last two weeks for our rugby team to be unbeatable. It's about time we started to pray for our children to be unbeatable." Conservative member Darren Millar said: "The overall majority of parents I believe know where to draw the line between physical chastisement and abuse and we should trust their judgment."

    Gwenda Thomas, the deputy minister for children and social services, ruled out legislation being introduced in this assembly term. She said a large amount of work needed to be done before a law could be brought in and feared criminalising parents.

    Supporters of a ban have been buoyed by a letter from the first minister, Carwyn Jones, in which he says ministers believe that one could be introduced in Wales. In the letter Jones writes: "The Welsh ministers' view is that it would be possible for legislation to be passed by the assembly to make amendments to the criminal law whose effect would be to bring to an end the availability oft he defence of reasonable punishment for those cases where it still applies to an offence of assaulting a child."

    Keith Towler, the children's commissioner for Wales, welcomed the debate, saying: "Children are the only people in the UK that can be hit without consequence. Children should be entitled to the same level of protection as adults. There's no such thing as a safe smack.

    "Physical punishment as a form of discipline is not effective, and in some cases there can be detrimental effects for children who are smacked — both in terms of physical injury and due to longer-term emotional and psychological impacts.

    "A change in legislation will help shift attitudes and behaviour relating to assaulting children — something which can't be done while the law condones smacking."In England and Northern Ireland the defence of "reasonable chastisement" has been removed for more serious assaults on children but is retained for the offence of common assault. In Scotland, in 2003 the law was changed to ban hitting on the head, shaking or punishing with an implement.


  3. France gets rap on knuckles over smacking children

    By Cedric Simon, AFP March 4, 2015

    Strasbourg (France) (AFP) - A top rights body said Wednesday that France was in violation of a European treaty because it did not fully ban the smacking of children, reigniting debate over the divisive issue.

    The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe said France's laws on corporal punishment for children were not "sufficiently clear, binding and precise".

    France bans violence against children but does allow parents the "right to discipline" them.

    French law does forbid corporal punishment in schools or disciplinary establishments for children.

    More than half of the 47 members of the Council of Europe, including Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, have completely banned smacking.

    Worldwide, 17 other countries have a complete ban on corporal punishment for children, notably in South America, Central America and Africa.

    The Council of Europe was ruling on a complaint lodged by the Britain-based child protection charity Approach, which says that French law violates part of the European Social Charter, a treaty first adopted in 1961 and revised in 1996.

    France was one of seven countries included in the complaint. Rulings on the other six -- Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Italy and Ireland -- are due in the coming months.

    - 'Collective debate' -

    The case has revived the issue in France, with the minister for the family Laurence Rossignol calling for a "collective debate" but not new regulations.

    "For abusive parents, we have a penal code. For those that occasionally resort to corporal punishment, we need to help them do things differently and not discredit them by saying 'the judge is coming to deal with that'," the minister added.

    The government was more dismissive, with spokesman Stephane Le Foll saying there were "no grounds for debate".

    "No one in France is in favour of corporal punishment," said Le Foll.

    The subject came to the fore in France in 2013 when a father was fined 500 euros ($600) for smacking his nine-year-old son.

    Some people lauded the ruling, others found it disproportionately harsh.

    Pope Francis raised hackles earlier this year when he said good fathers knew how to forgive but also to "correct with firmness".

    He described as "beautiful" and dignified the response of one father who said he sometimes smacked his children "but never in the face so as to not humiliate them".

    Those in favour of a complete ban point to the mental and physical harm suffered by the child.

    Gilles Lazimi, from the campaign group "Foundation for the Child", said that smacking a child is "not only ineffective but also harmful for the health of some children".

    Being hit can "interfere with brain development, emotional development, the relationship with parents and... as the child ages, can result in a loss of self-confidence and self-esteem," said Lazimi.

    However, an opposition politician, Jean-Christophe Lagarde, said it was "ridiculous" to introduce laws that governed family life to that extent.

    "Are we going to be told how to stack our plates, whether children should be made to dry up and whether they can help their parent with the chores?" he asked.

    Unlike the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe does not have the power to punish its members, only to slap them on the wrist.