Abolishing Corporal Punishment of Children

From the Council of Europe

Council of Europe pushing to ban corporal punishmentThe Council of Europe wants a continent free of corporal punishment. Hitting people is wrong — and children are people, too.

To protect children from corporal punishment, the Council of Europe has developed tools for the use of governments, parliaments, local authorities, professional networks, civil society, and more generally, anyone caring for children.

Abolition of corporal punishment has become a global goal.

Criminalizing corporal punishment of children is not about putting parents in jail. Abolishing corporal punishment means promoting positive parenting.

What is Corporal Punishment of Children?

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child defines corporal punishment as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.”

Most corporal punishment involves hitting — smacking, slapping, spanking — children, with the hand or with an implement. It can also involve kicking, shaking, or throwing children, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair or boxing ears, forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions, burning, scalding, or forced ingestion.

Why Should We Abolish Corporal Punishment of Children?

  1. It is a violation of children’s rights to respect for physical integrity, human dignity, and equal protection under the law.
  2. It can cause serious physical and psychological harm to children.
  3. It teaches children that violence is an acceptable way of resolving conflict.
  4. It is ineffective as a means of discipline. There are positive ways to teach, correct, or discipline children that are better for children’s development and for family relations.
  5. It is more difficult to protect children if corporal punishment is legitimate — this implies that some forms or levels of violence against children are acceptable.

Children are not mini-human beings with mini-human rights.

How Can We Achieve Abolition?

  • Through law reform — introducing an explicit prohibition of all corporal punishment in all settings, including the home; ensuring there are no existing legal defenses that justify corporal punishment by parents or others; and providing guidance on appropriate enforcement of these laws.
  • Through policy measures — ensuring comprehensive prevention policies and effective protection systems are implemented at different levels; and promoting positive, nonviolent forms of child-rearing, conflict resolution, and education.
  • Through awareness — ensuring comprehensive awareness raising of the prohibition of corporal punishment, and of children’s rights in general.

Get Involved
This information is available in a variety of media materials from the Council of Europe. While this campaign is directed toward the European Union, this is a movement meant for all societies and is just as relevant for your community whether you live in London, Munich, Paris, Sydney, or Los Angeles. Click here to see all of the campaign materials that are available to print and pass along.

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