Laws against hitting children

July 2, 2010

Take a look at this list of countries where all corporal punishment against children, including in the home, is now legally prohibited:

Sweden (1979)
Finland (1983)
Norway (1987)
Austria (1989)
Cyprus (1994)
Denmark (1997)
Latvia (1998)
Croatia (1999)
Germany (2000)
Israel (2000)
Bulgaria (2000)
Iceland (2003)
Romania (2004)
Ukraine (2004)
Hungary (2005)
Greece (2006)
Spain (2007)
Venezuela (2007)
Uruguay (2007)
Portugal (2007)
New Zealand (2007)
Netherlands (2007)
Republic of Moldova (2008)
Costa Rica (2008)

In addition, in Italy in 1996 the Supreme Court in Rome declared all corporal punishment to be unlawful; this is not yet confirmed in legislation.

In Nepal in 2005, the Supreme Court declared null and void the legal defense in the Child Act allowing parents, guardians and teachers to administer a “minor beating”; the Child Act is yet to be amended to confirm this.

Do you notice a country that is noticeably absent from the list?

A number of countries, some motivated in part by the UN’s convention and resolution protecting the rights of children, have taken the important step of legally standing behind child protection. This is clearly a step forward in the advancement of civilization.

In fact, the UN Study on Violence Against Children set a goal of universal abolition of corporal punishment against children as 2009. As of March 2009, the count of countries with full abolition was 24. The prohibition is being added by further states at a fast rate.

Here is a statement made at a discussion of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child:

As for corporal punishment, few countries have clear laws on this question. Certain States have tried to distinguish between the correction of children and excessive violence. In reality the dividing line between the two is artificial. It is very easy to pass from one stage to the other. It is also a question of principle. If it is not permissible to beat an adult, why should it be permissible to do so to a child? One of the contributions of the Convention is to call attention to the contradictions in our attitudes and cultures.” Concluding statement to Committee on the Rights of the Child General Discussion on Children’s Rights in the Family, October 1994.

In America, suggestions to legally prohibit hitting children are rarely well-received. A recent attempt at a limited watered-down ban on corporal punishment (only on children under 4) in California was angrily received as well as ridiculed by many and shot down. (See Spanking Still Legal in California, Feb. 24, 2007, by Eric Fleming.)

Why are Americans so hell bent on protecting the rights of parents to hit children?

How about this:

“Consider the injustice of hitting children. We hit in order to inflict pain. The law does not permit us to inflict pain on anyone other than our children. Floggings of prisoners and in the armed services, the beating of wives and servants are part of an unwanted brutal past. Our laws prohibit us from inflicting pain on animals. Why our children?” Ian Hassall, New Zealand Commissioner for Children, 1993.