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Last updated: December 2014

STATES WITH FULL ABOLITION

In the following 43 states, children are protected by law from all corporal punishment (most recent first):

Estonia (2014)

Nicaragua (2014)

San Marino (2014)

Argentina (2014)

Bolivia (2014)

Brazil (2014)

Malta (2014)

Cabo Verde (2013)

Honduras (2013)

TFYR Macedonia (2013)

South Sudan (2011)

Albania (2010)

Congo, Republic of (2010)

Kenya (2010)

Tunisia (2010)

Poland (2010)

Liechtenstein (2008)

Luxembourg (2008)

Republic of Moldova (2008)

Costa Rica (2008)

Togo (2007)

Spain (2007)

Venezuela (2007)

Uruguay (2007)

Portugal (2007)

New Zealand (2007)

Netherlands (2007)

Greece (2006)

Hungary (2005)

Romania (2004)

Ukraine (2004)

Iceland (2003)

Turkmenistan (2002)

Germany (2000)

Israel (2000)

Bulgaria (2000)

Croatia (1999)

Latvia (1998)

Denmark (1997)

Cyprus (1994)

Austria (1989)

Norway (1987)

Finland (1983)

Sweden (1979)

 

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 defence 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.

Estonia

In 2011, the Government of Estonia signalled its commitment to enacting legislation to prohibit all corporal punishment of children when it clearly accepted the recommendation to do so made during the Universal Periodic Review of Estonia. In November 2014, this law reform was achieved with the passage of the Child Welfare Act 2014.

Article 24 of the Act explicitly prohibits all corporal punishment, without exception. It clarifies that physical force may be used for purposes of restraint, but emphasises that force may not be used to punish a child. The full text of the article is as follows (unofficial translation):

(1) It is prohibited to neglect a child, to mentally, emotionally, physically or sexually abuse a child, including to humiliate, frighten or physically punish a child, and also to punish a child in any other way that endangers the mental, emotional or physical health of a child.

(2) To prevent child abuse, the legal representative of a child has the right to obtain information about the punishment record of another person under the Punishment Register Act.

(3) It is not child abuse within the meaning of this Act if a child’s behaviour represents a direct and immediate danger to the life or health of the child himself or of another person and this danger cannot be averted, including through conversation, persuasion or verbal calming, and therefore a person bringing up the child, a person working with the child or a child protection worker has to use physical force to restrain the child to an extent that does not cause physical, mental or emotional harm to the child and infringes the child’s rights and freedom as little as possible.

(4) The use of physical force is only permissible for the purpose of this Act to restrict the movement or movements of a child to the extent that is proportionate and necessary to avert the danger either threatening the child or coming from the child. It is not permitted to use physical force for the purpose of punishment.

The new law comes into force on 1 January 2016.

For further information see the Global Initiative country report for Estonia.

The full text of the amending law is available here (in Estonian).

Nicaragua

When Nicaragua’s human rights record was examined in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in 2010, the issue of corporal punishment of children was raised and recommendations made to prohibit it in all circumstances. The same thing happened in the second UPR of Nicaragua in 2014. On both occasions the Government accepted the recommendations, signalling its commitment to prohibition of all corporal punishment.

In 2012, the “right to disciplinary punishment” of children was removed from the Penal Code 2008 by Law No. 779 Comprehensive Law against Violence against Women and Reforming Law No. 641 Penal Code 2012. Article 155 of the Penal Code as amended prohibits domestic violence and states (unofficial translation):

“Whoever carries any force, violence or physical or psychological intimidation against a person who is a spouse or partner in a stable union or is linked by a stable affective relationship, children, adolescents, older persons, persons with disabilities, the daughters and sons own spouse, partner or ascendants, descendants, collateral relatives by blood, marriage, adoption, or under guardianship. For children and adolescents, the right to disciplinary correction may not be claimed. Those responsible for this crime will be imposed the following penalties:
(a) minor injuries, the penalty shall be one to two years in prison;
(b) serious injury, the penalty is three to seven years in prison;
(c) very serious injury, the penalty is five to twelve years in prison.
In addition to the prison terms outlined above, the perpetrators of domestic violence, will be imposed disqualification for the same period of the rights arising from the relationship between mother, father and children, or the person under guardianship.”

The linking of punishment with injury was considered to show a lack of clarity as to whether or not all physical punishment of children was unlawful. It was considered that further reform was necessary in order to achieve clarity that no form of corporal punishment is lawful.

In 2014, the National Assembly of Nicaragua approved the new Family Code 2014, which was published in the Official Gazette on 8 October 2014. Article 280 states (unofficial translation):

“The father, mother, or other family members, guardians or other persons legally responsible for the son or daughter have the responsibility, the right and duty to provide, consistent with the child’s evolving capacities, appropriate direction and guidance to the child, without putting at risk his or her health, physical integrity, psychological and personal dignity and under no circumstances using physical punishment or any type of humiliating treatment as a form of correction or discipline.

The Ministry of Family, Youth and Children, in coordination with other state institutions and society shall promote forms of positive, participatory and non-violent discipline as alternatives to physical punishment and other forms of humiliating discipline.”

The Code comes into force in April 2015.

In addition, on 14 November 2014 – following sustained advocacy by the Group for Good Treatment, coordinated by the Ombudsperson for Children – the Ministry of Family, Adolescents and Children issued Resolution No. 244/2014 confirming prohibition of all corporal punishment in all protection centres for children.

For further information see the Global Initiative country report for Nicaragua.

The full text of the amending law is available here (in Spanish).

San Marino

When San Marino was examined by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2003, the Government stated that corporal punishment of children was an offence under the Penal Code provisions against abuse of the authority to discipline. In fact, the relevant article of the Penal Code (article 234) did not clearly prohibit all corporal punishment. However, while accepting a recommendation to prohibit corporal punishment made in 2010 during the Universal Periodic of San Marino, the Government pledged to amend the Criminal Code to ensure clear prohibition.

In June 2014, the draft law prohibiting all corporal punishment was approved by the Government (Decision No. 17 of 17 June 2014) and was scheduled for its first reading in the Great and General Council in July 2014. The law was enacted in September 2014. The new Law of 5 September 2014 No. 140 amends article 57 of the Law of 26 April 1986 No. 49 on Family Law Reform to state (unofficial translation):

“Children have the right to protection and security, and shall not be subjected to corporal punishment or other treatment harmful to their physical and psychological integrity.”

Article 234 of the Penal Code was also amended:

“(Prohibition of corporal punishment). Whosoever in the exercise of the power to correct or discipline inflicts corporal punishment or uses other coercive or repressive means, shall be punished with first-degree imprisonment or disqualification from exercising parental power, office, occupation or profession, where the punishment or means employed result in danger to body or mind or illness to the person under the authority of or entrusted to the perpetrator, or third-degree imprisonment if the act results in one of the events specified in Article 156, or fifth-degree if its results in death.”

For further information see the Global Initiative country report for San Marino.

The full text of the amending law is available here (in Italian).

Argentina

The Civil and Commercial Code 2014 was passed by the Senate in February 2014 and by the House of Representatives in October 2014, and was promulgated by the President on 7 October 2014 in a ceremony at the Bicentennial Museum in Buenos Aires. It will come into force in January 2016.

The prohibition of corporal punishment is found in Title VII of the Code (“Parental Responsibility”), Chapter 2 (“Duties and rights of parents: General rules”), article 647 (“Prohibition of ill-treatment):

“All forms of corporal punishment, ill-treatment and any act that physically or mentally injures or impairs children and adolescents are prohibited.
Parents may request the assistance of guidance services by state agencies.”

The new Code will replace the Civil Code 1869, which in article 278 provides for the “power to correct”. There is no such power in the new Code.

For further information see the Global Initiative country report for Argentina.

The full text of the Civil and Commercial Code is available here (in Spanish).

Bolivia

On 17 July 2014, the President signed into law a new Children and Adolescents Code which explicitly prohibits all corporal punishment of children.
Chapter 8 of the Code provides for the right to personal integrity and protection from violence, including in article 146 explicit prohibition of all corporal punishment (unofficial translation):

“Right to good treatment.
(1) The child and adolescent has the right to good treatment, comprising a non-violent upbringing and education, based on mutual respect and solidarity.
(2) The exercise of the authority of the mother, father, guardian, family members and educators should use non-violent methods in parenting, education and correction. Any physical, violent and humiliating punishment is prohibited.”

Article 147 states that where violence against a child constitutes a criminal offence it will be punished under criminal law; where violence breaches the Children and Adolescents Code but does not constitute a criminal offence, it will be sanctioned according to the Code. Article 153 confirms that this includes the “subjection to physical punishment or other forms that degrade or adversely affect the dignity of the child or adolescent, whether by way of disciplinary or educational measures, unless the lesions are classified in criminal legislation”.

Article 117 confirms that physical punishment is prohibited in schools:

“Rules of conduct and peaceful and harmonious coexistence must be administered in compliance with the rights and interests of children and adolescents, considering their duties, which must conform to the following provisions….
(d) Physical punishments are prohibited.”

Article 338 prohibits its use in specialised centres (orientation and social reintegration centres):

“Disciplinary regime. …
(2) Specialised centres where custodial measures are met should have internal regulations that respect the rights and guarantees recognised by this Code, and include as a minimum the following: …
(b) Exhaustive regulatory sanctions that may be imposed on the adolescent and for compliance with the measure. Under no circumstances may be applied cruel, inhuman or degrading disciplinary measures, including corporal punishment and confinement in dark and filthy cells….”

Article 342 states the right of children and adolescents deprived of their liberty not to be subjected to corporal punishment.

The Code came into force on 6 August 2014.

For further information see the Global Initiative country report for Bolivia.

The full text of the Children and Adolescents Code 2014 here (in Spanish).

Brazil

On 27 June 2014, the President signed into law amendments to the Code on Children and Adolescents 1990 which explicitly prohibit physical punishment and other cruel or degrading treatment of children, wherever they are and whoever the perpetrator. A new article 18-A is inserted into the Code (unofficial translation):

“Children and Adolescents are entitled to be educated and cared for without the use of physical punishment or cruel or degrading treatment as forms of correction, discipline, education or any other pretext, by their parents by the members of their extended family, by persons responsible for them, by public officials implementing social and educational measures or by any other person entrusted with taking care of them or treating, educating or protecting them….”

A new article 18-B provides for a range of measures to ensure implementation of the prohibition, including referral to a family protection programme, referral for guidance, and warning, in addition to any other legal measures that may be taken, and for the promotion of permanent educational campaigns, ongoing professional education and training and a range of other actions to support non-violent parenting, education and conflict resolution (art. 18-B).

For further information see the Global Initiative country report for Brazil.

The full text of the amending law is available here (in Portuguese).

Malta

In February 2014, the Maltese Parliament passed Criminal Code (Amendment No. 3) Act 2014, which amends article 339 of the Criminal Code to effectively prohibit all corporal punishment of children. Prior to reform, the Code had allowed the use of “moderate” corporal punishment within the concept of lawful correction. The 2014 amendment added a clause to the article clarifying that no form of corporal punishment could be considered “moderate”. The amended article 339 now states (emphasis added):

“Every person is guilty of a contravention against the person who - …
(h) being authorised to correct any other person, exceeds the bounds of moderation:
Provided that, for the avoidance of any doubt, corporal punishment of any kind shall always be deemed to exceed the bounds of moderation.”

Some legislation must still be formally amended to bring it into line with the prohibition of corporal punishment. The Civil Code 1870 states that a parent may be deprived of the rights of parental authority “if the parent, exceeding the bounds of reasonable chastisement, ill-treats the child, or neglects his education” (art. 154), and the Criminal Code includes a reference to “lawful correction” in article 229. In light of the 2014 reform to article 339 of the Criminal Code, these provisions no longer amount to a defence for the use of corporal punishment in childrearing. Nevertheless, they should be amended/repealed to as to achieve absolute consistency in law. The Office of the Commissioner for Children is advocating for the completion of law reform.

For further information see the Global Initiative country report for Malta.

The full text of the Criminal Code is available here (in English); the amending law (Criminal Code (Amendment No. 3) Act 2014) is available here (in Maltese).

Cabo Verde

The Law on Children and Adolescents 2013 (Law No. 50/VIII/2013) was approved on 30 October 2013. It was published in the Official Gazette (Boletim Oficial) on 26 December 2013 and came into force in January 2014.

Article 31 of the new Law explicitly prohibits corporal punishment within the family (unofficial translation):

“(1) The family must provide a loving and safe environment that allows the full development of children and adolescents and protects them from any actions affecting their personal integrity.
(2) In exercising the right to correction parents must always keep in mind the rights of children and adolescents to an upbringing free from violence, corporal punishment, psychological harm and any other measures affecting their dignity, which are all inadmissible.”

Corporal punishment is prohibited in all public and private institutions under the Civil Code, but prior to this reform it was lawful in the home and in non-institutional forms of care.

For further information see the Global Initiative country report for Cabo Verde.

The full text of the Law on Children and Adolescents 2013 is available here (in Portuguese).

Honduras

On 6 September 2013, Decree No. 35-2013 was published in the Official Gazette in Honduras, bringing into force a comprehensive set of reforms to child and family law which includes prohibition of all corporal punishment of children in all settings, including the home.

Prior to reform, article 231 of the Civil Code and article 191 of the Family Code both confirmed the authority of parents “to reprimand and adequately and moderately correct their children”. These defences for the use of corporal punishment in childrearing were explicitly repealed. Article 14 of Decree No. 35-2013 repeals article 231 of the Civil Code, and article 5 of the amending law replaces article 191 of the Family Code with explicit prohibition of corporal punishment:

“Parents, in the exercise of parental authority, have the right to exercise orientation, care and correction of their children, and to import to them, in keeping with the evolution of their physical and mental faculties, the guidance and orientation which are appropriate for their comprehensive development.

It is prohibited to parents and every person charged with the care, upbringing, education, treatment and monitoring [of children and adolescents], whether on a temporary or permanent basis, to use physical punishment or any type of humiliating, degrading, cruel or inhuman treatment as a form of correction or discipline of children or adolescents.

The State, through its competent institutions, will guarantee:

a) the execution of awareness and education programs directed to parents and every person charged with the care, treatment, education or monitoring of children and adolescents, at both national and local levels; and,

b) the promotion of positive, participative and non-violent forms of discipline as alternatives to physical punishment and other forms of humiliating treatment.”

(Unofficial translation)

In addition, article 1 of the amending law reforms article 164 of the Code on Children and Adolescents to include in its definition of abuse that which is inflicted in the guise of discipline or correction.

The full text of Decree No. 35-2013 (in Spanish) is available here (note that this is a very large file).

For further information see the Global Initiative country report for Honduras.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

In February 2013, new legislation which prohibits all corporal punishment of children, wherever they, was adopted. Up until this point, the Law on Protection of Children 2000 (as amended 2009) had prohibited “psychological or physical maltreatment or other inhumane treatment or abuse of children”. This had protected children from corporal punishment of some severity but not from all corporal punishment. The new Law on Child Protection 2013 explicitly prohibits all corporal punishment of children. Article 12, paragraph 2 states (unofficial translation):

“All forms of sexual exploitation and sexual child abuse (harassment, child pornography, child prostitution), forced procuring, selling or trafficking children, psychological or physical violence and harassment, punishment or other inhuman treatment, all kinds of exploitation, commercial exploitation and abuse of children that violates basic human freedoms and rights and rights of the child, are prohibited.”

Paragraph 6 of article 12 confirms that children are to be protected in all settings:

“The state and institutions are obliged to take all necessary measures to ensure the right of the children and prevent any form of discrimination or abuse regardless of the place where they are committed, the severity, intensity and duration.”

The Government confirmed that the law prohibits all corporal punishment during the Universal Periodic Review of Macedonia in 2014 (session 18).

For further information see the Global Initiative country report for TFYR Macedonia.

The full text of the Law on Child Protection 2013 is available here (in Macedonian).

South Sudan

On 14 July 2011, the Republic of South Sudan became the 193rd member state of the United Nations, having achieved independence on 9 July. South Sudan can now be added to the list of states which have achieved full prohibition, though legislation prohibiting corporal punishment was originally enacted prior to independence.

In 2005, under the Interim Government of Southern Sudan, the Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan was passed which stated in article 21(1):

“Every child has the right … (f) to be free from corporal punishment and cruel and inhuman treatment by any person including parents, school administrations and other institutions….”

Prohibition was confirmed in article 21 of the Child Act (2008), entitled “Right to Protection from Torture, Degrading Treatment and Corporal Punishment”:

“Every child has the right to be protected from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and in particular:

(a) no child shall be sentenced to capital punishment or life imprisonment;

(b) no child shall be subjected to corporal punishment by chiefs, police, teachers, prison guards or any other person in any place or institution, including schools, prisons and reformatories; and,

(c) no child shall be subjected to a group punishment by chiefs, police, teachers, prison guards or any other person in any place or institution, including schools, prisons and reformatories.”

A new Constitution – the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan (2011) – came into force on independence. It includes the prohibition of corporal punishment of children by all persons, including parents, in article 17(1):

“Every child has the right: …

(f) to be free from corporal punishment and cruel and inhuman treatment by any person including parents, school administrations and other institutions….”

The full text of the Constitution (2011) is available here.

The country report for South Sudan is available here.

Albania

The Law on the Protection of the Rights of the Child (2010) was enacted on 4 November 2010 and came into force in May 2011. Despite the Government’s rejection of the 2009 UPR recommendations to prohibit all corporal punishment, this new law makes corporal punishment of children unlawful in all settings, including by parents in the family home.

Article 21 of the Law on the Protection of the Rights of the Child (2010) states:

“Article 21. Protection from All Forms of Violence

“The child shall be protected from any form of:

a) physical and psychological violence;

b) corporal punishment and degrading and humiliating treatment;

c) discrimination, exclusion and contempt;

ç) maltreatment and abandonment;

d) disrespect and neglect;

dh) exploitation and abuse, and

e) sexual violence.”

Article 3(ç) defines “physical violence” as “every attempt to damage or actual physical damage, or injury to the child, including corporal punishment, which are not accidental” (official translation). Corporal punishment is defined in article 3(f):

“‘Corporal punishment’ is any form of punishment resorting to the use of force aimed to cause pain or suffering, even in the slightest extent, by parents, siblings, grandparents, legal representative, relative or any other person legally responsible for the child. Corporal punishment includes such forms as: beating, torturing, violent shaking, burning, slapping, kicking, pinching, scratching, biting, scolding, forced action and use of substances to cause physical and mental discomfort.” In addition, article 26 of the Law states: “No child shall be subjected to torture, punishment, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

The Law provides for its implementation through structures at central and local levels – at central level the National Council for Protection of Child Rights, the Minister Coordinating Action on Protection of Child Rights and the State Agency for the Protection of Child Rights, and at local level the Unit for the Rights of the Child at the Regional Council and the Children’s Protection Unit at municipality/commune level – to work with non-profit organisations in line with rules determined by the Council of Ministers (articles 32 to 39).

Article 40 of the Law punishes violations of the rights mentioned in articles 21 and 26 (and others), when they are not offences under criminal law:

“Article 40. Administrative Contraventions

1. Violation of rights mentioned in articles 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21 and 26 of this law, when not a penal offence, constitutes an administrative contravention and shall be punished by fines, when committed respectively by:

a) a physical person, from 30 000 to 60 000 leks;

b) a legal person from 60,000 to 120 000 leks;

c) a physical person within a legal person, from 30 000 to 80 000 leks;

ç) individuals in public office, from 30 000 to 80 000 leks…..”

The Criminal Code, as amended in 2008 by Law No. 9859, punishes “physical or psychological abuse of the child by the person who is obliged to care for him/her” with imprisonment from three months to two years (article 124b).

The full text of the 2010 Law on the Protection of the Rights of the Child is available in English and Albanian.

The Global Initiative country report for Albania is available here.

Congo, Republic of

Article 53 on protection  of the Law on the Protection of the Child (2010) states:

“It is prohibited to use corporal punishment for disciplining or correcting the child.” (unofficial translation)

The article is in Title II, Chapter 1 of the Law, which protects children generally from violence and neglect and applies to children wherever they are.

Article 107 states that persons who inflict cruel inhuman or degrading punishment on children are liable to the penalties in the penal code; article 130 states that international conventions ratified by the Republic of Congo on the rights of the child are an integral part of this law, and article 131 repeals all previous laws in conflict with the new law.

In its report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2010, prepared by the Ministere des Affairs Sociales, de l’Action Humanitaire et de la Solidarite, the Government confirms that prohibition now extends to the home setting. It also notes the need for monitoring implementation of the prohibition and for awareness raising and education measures to be undertaken.

The full text of the 2010 Law on the Protection of the Child (in French) is available here.

The country report for the Republic of Congo is available here.

Kenya

On 4 August 2010, Kenya held a referendum on a proposed new Constitution. The result was a “Yes” vote and the Constitution came into force on 27 August 2010. The Bill of Rights protects the right of every person not to be subjected to corporal punishment by any person in any setting. Article 29 (Freedom and security of the person) states:

“Every person has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right not to be – ...
c) subjected to any form of violence from either public or private sources;
d) subjected to torture in any manner, whether physical or psychological;
e) subjected to corporal punishment; or
f) treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading manner.”

The rights apply to all persons and all settings, public and private. Article 20 (Application of Bill of Rights) states:

“(1) The Bill of Rights applies to all law and binds all State organs and all persons.
(2) Every person shall enjoy the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights to the greatest extent consistent with the nature of the right or fundamental freedom.
(3) In applying a provision of the Bill of Rights, a court shall –
a) develop the law to the extent that it does not give effect to a right of fundamental freedom; and
b) adopt the interpretation that most favours the enforcement of a right or fundamental freedom....”

Specific application of certain rights to certain groups of persons is addressed in Part 3 of the Bill of Rights, stating that this “shall not be construed as limiting or qualifying any right” (article 52). Article 53 (Children) in this Part states:

“(1) Every child has the right – ...
d) to be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices, all forms of violence, inhuman treatment and punishment, and hazardous or exploitative labour....
(2) A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.”

Kenya must now review and amend legislation which is incompatible with the new Constitution. This includes repealing the right of parents and others to “administer reasonable punishment” from article 127 of the Children Act (2001), the authorisation for school corporal punishment in the Education (School Discipline) Regulations, and any other laws which authorise corporal punishment in institutions and other settings. However, the Constitutional prohibition of corporal punishment overrides these provisions, making corporal punishment unlawful with immediate effect. Article 2 (Supremacy of this Constitution) states:

“(1) This Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic and binds all persons and all State organs at both levels of government....

(4) Any law, including customary law, that is inconsistent with this Constitution is void to the extent of the inconsistency, and any act or omission in contravention of this Constitution is invalid....

(6) Any treaty or convention ratified by Kenya shall form part of the law of Kenya under this Constitution.”

The full text of the new Constitution is available here.

The country report for Kenya is available here.

Tunisia

In July 2010, Parliament passed Law No. 2010-40 of 26 July 2010, amending article 319 of the Penal Code to remove the clause which provided a legal defence for the use of corporal punishment in childrearing.

Prior to the reform, article 319 of the Penal Code punished assault and violence which did not lead to serious or lasting consequences for the victim, but stated that “correction of a child by persons in authority over him is not punishable”.

The new law explicitly repeals this clause, making it a criminal offence to assault a child even lightly. Publication of the law in the Official Gazette, in July 2010, was accompanied by a statement from the Constitutional Council that the new law is wholly compatible with the Constitution and its effect is to make the provisions against light assault in article 319 of the Penal Code equally applicable to “correction” of children.

Serious assault is punishable under other articles in the Penal Code, and the Code of Child Protection provides legal protection from other forms of violence, including “repeated violations of [the child’s] physical integrity”.

The full text of the law and the statement of the Constitutional Council, in French, is available in the Tunisia Official Gazette.

The full country report for Tunisia is available here.

Poland

Article 2 of the Law of 6 May 2010 “On the Prevention of Family Violence” amends the Family Code (1964) by inserting a new article 96 which prohibits all corporal punishment in childrearing:

“Persons exercising parental care, care or alternative care over a minor are forbidden to use corporal punishment, inflict psychological suffering and use any other forms of child humiliation.” (Unofficial translation)

The new law was signed by the President on 18 June 2010 and came into force on 1 August.

Article 40 of the Polish Constitution of 1997 prohibits corporal punishment, but there was a lack of consensus as to whether or not this applied in private spheres such as the home and privately-run alternative care settings. The Government’s commitment to full prohibition was confirmed to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in June 2008. The new article 96 of the Family Code is explicitly clear that all corporal punishment of children is prohibited.

The full country report for Poland is available here.

Liechtenstein

Article 3 of the Children and Youth Act, adopted in December 2008 and in force from January 2009, states (unofficial translation):

“(1) Children and young people have the rights outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to the following measures:

  1. Protection notably against discrimination, neglect, violence, abuse and sexual abuse
  2. Education/upbringing without violence: corporal punishment, psychological harm and other degrading treatment are not accepted
  3. Participation in social, political, economic and cultural situations concerning them
  4. Being heard, expressing their opinions according to their maturity and age, in particular in dealings with Court and administration
  5. Their best interests will be given priority

(2) Children can address the Ombudsperson when they believe their rights have been violated.”

Download the full text of the new law, in German, here (PDF).

Luxembourg

Article 2 of the Law on Children and the Family, adopted in December 2008, states:

“Within families and educative communities, physical and sexual violence, intergenerational transgressions, inhuman and degrading treatment and genital mutilation are prohibited.” (unofficial translation)

A review of the law, parliamentary debate and official statements, including the opinion of the State Council (Conseil d’Etat), confirms that the new law was intended to prohibit all corporal punishment in the home and is interpreted in this way. Further details of the passage of the law can be found here.

There is no legal defence in the Penal Code for the use of corporal punishment in “disciplining” or “correcting” children and the right of paternal punishment in the Civil Code was abolished in 1939. This means that legal provisions against assault apply to children as to adults. Article 401bis of the Penal Code punishes violence against children with imprisonment and a fine, with the exception of “light assault”, which is punishable with a fine under articles 563 and 564.

During debate on the bill, the State Council affirmed that the intention of the new law was to ensure prohibition of corporal punishment of children and referred to the Council of Europe’s recommendation on the issue (Recommendation 1666 (2004), Europe-wide ban on corporal punishment of children). The State Council was of the opinion that this was already the case under the Penal Code (Opinion of the State Council, 17 June 2008, report no. 5754/9). The Parliamentary Commission rejected this argument and decided that it was necessary to specify in the new law that corporal punishment of children within the family is prohibited.

Republic of Moldova

In 2008, the Family Code (2001) was amended to recognise the right of children to protection from all corporal punishment and to explicitly prohibit its use by parents and others with parental authority.

Article 53 of the Code, on “The right of the child to be protected”, states in paragraph 4:

“The minor has the right to be protected against abuses, including corporal punishment by his parents or persons who replace them.”

Article 62, on “Parents’ rights”, states in paragraph 2:

“Methods to educate children, chosen by parents, will exclude abusive behaviour, insults and ill-treatments of all types, discrimination, psychological and physical violence, corporal punishments ....”

To support the law reform and its implementation, in November 2008 the Information Office of the Council of Europe in Moldova launched the Council of Europe Campaign to abolish corporal punishment, “Raise your hand against smacking”, at a round table event held at Parliament. The launch of the campaign was attended by MPs, members of the Parliamentary Committee for Social Protection, Health and Family, the Deputy Minister of Social Protection, Family and Child, representatives from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, UNICEF, UNDP and national children’s rights NGOs. It received good media coverage. Following presentation of the campaign, there were constructive discussions and debates on the need to adopt national policies to combat all forms of violence against children and to strengthen cooperation between the Moldovan Parliament, the Government and civil society on this issue.

Costa Rica

Corporal punishment is prohibited in all settings and by all persons with authority over children, including by parents in the home, under a law enacted in June 2008. Up to this time, corporal punishment had been lawful under article 143 of the Family Code, which stated that "paternal authority confers rights and imposes the duty to educate, are for, watch over and, with moderation, correct the son or daughter". The Code on Children and Adolescents protected children from abuse and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (article 13) and to physical, psychological and moral integrity (article 24), but did not prohibit all corporal punishment of children.

In October 2005, the Criminal Court of Cassation of the Second Circuit Court of San Jose stated that article 143 of the Family Code could "in no way be interpreted as a general authorization for parents or guardians of minors to hurt them without being punished for that action or simply to dispose of their lives as they please" and that "even though vested with parental rights and duties have no 'right' to hurt their children" (Judgment: 2005-1062, Case No. 02-002448-0369-PE-(3)).

In June 2008, article 143 of the Family Code was amended to state:

"Parental authority confers the rights and imposes the duties to orient, educate, care, supervise and discipline the children, which in no case authorises the use of corporal punishment or any other form of degrading treatment against the minors."

At the same time, a new article was added to the Code on Children and Adolescents, as part of the provisions on "The Rights of Personality". Article 24bis is entitled "The right to discipline free from corporal punishment and other degrading forms of treatment", and explicitly prohibits all forms of corporal punishment in all settings:

"Children and adolescents have a right to receive counselling, education, care and discipline from their mother, father or tutor, as well as from their caretakers or the personnel from educational and health centres, shelters, youth detention or any other type of centres, that in no way represents an authorisation of any sort to these parties for the use of corporal punishment or degrading treatment.

The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia shall coordinate with the institutions conforming to the National Integral Protection System and NGOs, for the implementation of educational campaigns and programmes directed to parents and other adults in custodial or caring roles."

Significantly, a report issued by the Legislative Ad-hoc Subcommission (File No. 15.34) confirms that dissenting opinions on prohibition have been taken into account in enacting prohibition. It states:

"It is important to state that the amendments hereby addressed are the result of a consensus reached by and between the various organisations promoting the project and those congressmen and congresswomen who initially opposed such initiative, since the final text takes into consideration and incorporates their points of view."

See the full country report for Costa Rica.

Togo

Article 353 of the Children’s Code (2007) states:

“The State protects the child from all forms of violence including sexual abuse, physical or mental violence, neglect or negligence, abuse perpetrated by parents or any other person having authority or custody over him.” (unofficial translation)

Violence against children is punished according to article 356, including minor, repeated assaults. Article 357 clarifies that corporal punishment is considered to be a breach of the law:

“Physical and psychological abuse, corporal punishment … is liable to the penalties provided for in paragraph 2 of article 356.” (unofficial translation)

The Code also explicitly prohibits corporal punishment in schools and in penal and care institutions. Article 376 states:

“Corporal punishment and other forms of violence or abuse are prohibited in schools, vocational training, and institutions.

This includes any institution or orphanage, rehabilitation centre for disabled children, reception and rehabilitation centre, hospital, re-education centre or other place of childcare, temporary or permanent.” (unofficial translation)

The Government has taken a number of measures to support implementation of the prohibition, including:

  • officially launching the Learn Without Fear campaign with Plan Togo – the campaign led to the inclusion of a module on non-violence at school in the curriculum of the national training college for primary school teachers
  • training for school inspectors, school principals, teachers and parent/teacher committees on knowledge about the law and promoting non-violence at home and at school
  • setting up a child protection hotline that any person can use anonymously – this has led to a rise in reporting of serious violations of children’s rights
  • adopting Decree No. 2010-100/PR establishing the norms and standards for reception and protection centres for vulnerable children
  • setting up community-based groups with training on how to combat corporal punishment
  • ensuring that orphanages and reception and protection centres for vulnerable children have a code of conduct prohibiting all violence, including corporal punishment, which has to be signed by each social worker
  • launching training workshops in private schools

In its third/fourth report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2011), the Government noted that the majority of teachers and parents still believe that beating a child is the most appropriate punishment and corporal punishment continues to be used. Further work is needed to ensure full implementation of the law and elimination of corporal punishment in practice.

Download the full text of the 2007 Children’s Code here.

Full country report on Togo is available here.

Spain

Corporal punishment is prohibited in the home under a 2007 amendment to the Civil Code. The Code had previously recognised the “right” of parents and guardians to use “reasonable and moderate” forms of “correction” but these provisions have been removed from the law, ensuring that children have the same protection from assault as adults. Article 154 now states that in the exercise of their responsibility, parents/tutors must respect the physical and psychological integrity of their children.

In 1999 the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs supported a widespread awareness-raising campaign highlighting the dangers of corporal punishment and promoting positive, non-violent forms of discipline. In November 2004, the Director of Childhood announced the Government’s intention to pursue law reform. Prohibition was achieved when Congress passed the new law on 20 December 2007. Media coverage of the reforms emphasised that the new legislation means parents may no longer smack their children in the name of discipline.

Full country report on Spain is available here.

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Venezuela

In December 2007, Venezuela enacted legislation which prohibits all corporal punishment of children, including in the home. A new article (article 32-A – “the right to good treatment”) was inserted into the Law for the Protection of Children and Adolescents which explicitly states that “all forms of physical and humiliating punishment are prohibited”. It puts an obligation on “parents, representatives, guardians, relatives, and teachers” to usenon-violent methods of education and discipline to raise and educate their children”, and places an obligation on the State to “ensure policies, programmes and protection measures are in place to abolish all forms of physical and humiliating punishment of children and young people”.

The stated purpose of the law is clear (unofficial translation):

A new human right – the right to be treated well – has been introduced to reinforce children and young people’s status as rights-holders, and to ensure the full recognition of their dignity and personal integrity. This right includes a non-violent upbringing and education, based on love, affection, mutual understanding and respect, and solidarity. In addition to an express ban on all forms of physical and humiliating punishment, fathers, mothers, representatives, guardians, relatives and teachers have an obligation to use non-violent methods to raise, train, educate and discipline children and young people, to ensure the implementation of this right. This new regulation is a step towards achieving abolition of all forms of abuse of children and young people, and building the legal foundations for a new and peaceful society.

The full text of article 32-A – which was approved by the National Assembly in February 2007 before finally being enacted in December – states:

All children and young people have a right to be treated well. This right includes a non-violent education and upbringing, based on love, affection, mutual understanding and respect, and solidarity.

Parents, representatives, guardians, relatives, and teachers should use non-violent methods of education and discipline to raise and educate their children. Consequently, all forms of physical and humiliating punishment are prohibited. The State, with the active participation of society, must ensure policies, programmes and protection measures are in place to abolish all forms of physical and humiliating punishment of children and young people.

Corporal punishment is defined as the use of force, in raising or educating children, with the intention of causing any degree of physical pain or discomfort to correct, control or change the behaviour of children and young people, provided that the act is not punishable.

Humiliating punishment can be understood as any form of offensive, denigrating, devaluing, stigmatising or mocking, treatment, carried out to raise or educate children and young people, with the aim of disciplining, controlling or changing their behaviour, provided that the act is not punishable.

Article 358 of the amended Law for the Protection of Children and Adolescents re-emphasises that the duties and rights of parents in childrearing exclude the use of corporal punishment:

The responsibility for raising children includes the shared duty and right, which is equal and non-derogable, of the father and mother to love, raise, train, educate, and look after their children, sustain and assist them financially, morally and emotionally, using appropriate corrective measures that do not violate their dignity, rights, guarantees or overall development. Consequently, all forms of physical punishment, psychological violence and humiliating treatment, which harm children and young people, are prohibited.

Corporal punishment had previously been lawful in the home  and other settings under the Civil Code provisions which recognised the imposition of “adequate/moderate correction” by parents, guardians and tutors (articles 265 and 349) and by people or entities temporarily responsible for the care of the child or adolescent (article 396).

Details of laws relating to corporal punishment of children in all settings are in the full country report for Venezuela.

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Uruguay

On 20 November 2007, a new law prohibiting all corporal punishment of children (“Proyecto de Ley Sustitutivo – Prohibición del castigo físico”) was passed by a majority vote in the House of Representatives. In August, the bill had been agreed unanimously by the Senate. The prohibition followed closely on the government’s public commitment to implement all the recommendations made in the final report of the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children, which included the recommendation to prohibit all corporal punishment of children by the year 2009.

Previously, the right of parents and others to inflict corporal punishment on children – in the guise of “moderate/adequate correction” – was recognised in the Civil Code (articles 261 and 384) and in the Children and Adolescents Code (article 16). The new law repeals these provisions and explicitly prohibits all corporal punishment and other humiliating or degrading treatment of children. It states (unofficial translation):

Article 1: Include in Law No. 17.823, of 7 September 2004 (Children and Young People’s Code), the following article:

“Article 12bis. Prohibition of physical punishment. It is prohibited for parents, guardians, and all other persons responsible for the care, treatment, education or supervision of children and adolescents, to use physical or any other kind of humiliating punishment as a form of correcting or disciplining children or adolescents.

Uruguay’s Institute for Children and Adolescents, other State institutions and civil society are jointly responsible for:

a) carrying out awareness raising and educational programmes for parents and all others responsible for the care, treatment, education or supervision of children and adolescents;

b) promoting positive, participatory and non-violent forms of discipline as alternatives to physical punishment and other forms of humiliating treatment.”

Article 2: Substitute the text of paragraph F, article 16, of Law No. 17.823, of 7 September 2004 (Code for Children and Adolescents), with the following:

“f) Correct your children or protégés without the use of physical punishment or any other kind of humiliating treatment.”

Article 3: Abolish article 261 and the second and third clauses of article 384 of the Civil Code.

Details of laws relating to corporal punishment of children in all settings are in the full country report for Uruguay.

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Portugal

On 4 September 2007, the Portuguese Parliament passed Law 59/2007 which amends the Penal Code to prohibit all corporal punishment of children, including by parents. The Law came into force on 15 September. Article 152 now states:

“Whoever repeatedly, or not, inflicts physical or psychological ill-treatment, including corporal punishment, deprivation of liberty and sexual offences, is punished with 1 to 5 years of imprisonment.”

Previously, the Portuguese government had considered that the law already prohibited all corporal punishment. The Civil Code states that parent-child relations are characterised by obedience and parental authority (article 1878), but a 1994 Supreme Court decision (Supremo Tribunal de Justiça, 9 February 1994) had ruled that this does not give parents the right to use physical aggression in childrearing. And an earlier decision by the Supreme Court (18 December 1991) stated that a simple slap which caused no injury and no physical or mental suffering was considered a “light corporal assault” and so was covered by article 143.1 of the Criminal Code which punishes “whoever causes bodily injury or impairment of health of another”. Subsequent Supreme Court decisions (21 January 1999 and 4 March 1999) confirmed this ruling, and a Court of Appeal decision (12 October 1999) referred to the absence of a “right” to use physical discipline in the Civil Code.

In 2003, the World Organisation Against Torture brought a complaint against Portugal under the Collective Complaints procedure of the European Social Charter alleging that Portugal was in breach of article 17 of the Charter because legislation did not explicitly prohibit corporal punishment of children, including by parents. In view of the Portuguese case law described above, the European Committee of Social Rights concluded by 9 votes to 4 that there was no violation of Article 17 of the Revised Social Charter because section 143 of the Criminal Code as interpreted by the Supreme Court provided a legal prohibition of all forms of corporal punishment of children and that no legal provision authorised the use of corporal punishment of children (Resolution ResChS(2005)1, Collective complaint No. 20/2003 by the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) against Portugal, adopted by the Council of Ministers on 20 April 2005).

But on 5 April 2006, the Supreme Court overturned its previous interpretation of legislation in ruling that slaps and spankings are “legal” and “acceptable”, and that failure to use these methods of punishment could even amount to “educational neglect”. The Supreme Court’s judgment stated:

“As far as the children in question is concerned … the acts with which the defendant is charged should, in our view, be considered lawful.

In the upbringing of the human being moderate punishment that can be corporal or other forms of punishment is justified….

‘Who being a good parent does not, once or twice, slap the bottom of the child refusing to go to school? Does not slap the child who throws a knife at him? Or punishes a child by sending it to his room when it does not want to eat?

As for the first two, we can even say that if the person having the lawful control or charge of the child would refrain from acting, then yes, that would amount to educational neglect. Many children refuse at times to go to the school. Because of its outmost importance, going to school has to be strongly imposed. It is obvious that in case of repeated school phobia, it would be advisable to find out the reasons and even get professional counselling. But should it happen once or twice, slapping (always moderate) the bottom is part of the method of upbringing.

Similarly, to throw a knife and what’s more at the person raising him, justifies, within the framework of a stable upbringing, emphasizing to the child that it did wrong and let it see the possible consequences. A slap in the heat of the moment cannot be considered extreme….’”

The World Organisation Against Torture submitted a second complaint under the collective complaints procedure in May 2006. This time the European Committee of Social Rights found the situation in Portugal to be in breach of article 17 of the Revised Charter because there is no explicit prohibition in law of all corporal punishment of children, including in the home. In its decision, the Committee clearly stated the need for explicit and effective prohibition of corporal punishment (Collective complaint No. 34/2006 by the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) against Portugal, Decision on the merits 5 December 2006, paragraphs 19 to 22):

“To comply with Article 17, states’ domestic law must prohibit and penalise all forms of violence against children, that is acts or behaviour likely to affect the physical integrity, dignity, development or psychological well being of children.

The relevant provisions must be sufficiently clear, binding and precise, so as to preclude the courts from refusing to apply them to violence against children.

Moreover, states must act with due diligence to ensure that such violence is eliminated in practice.

The conclusion to be drawn from the Supreme Court’s decision of 5 April 2006 is that Portuguese law does not include such provisions, even though this was the interpretation that had been drawn from a previous decision of that court. In addition, the Government has not supplied information to show that the measures in practice are likely to result in the eradication of all forms of violence against children.

CONCLUSION

For these reasons, the Committee concludes unanimously as to the violation of Article 17 of the Revised Charter.”

Following this, the Government announced it would review the Criminal Code and explicitly prohibit all corporal punishment. Prohibition was finally enacted in September 2007.

Details of Portuguese laws relating to corporal punishment are in the full country report for Portugal.

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New Zealand

On 16 May 2007, the New Zealand parliament passed – by an overwhelming majority – new legislation effectively prohibiting corporal punishment of children by parents. Before the new law was introduced, the New Zealand Crimes Act (section 59) recognised the right of parents to use “reasonable force” in disciplining children. The new Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act – in force from June 2007 – removed this defence so that the criminal laws on assault apply equally to adults and to children.

In her speech to the third reading of the Bill in parliament, MP Sue Bradford – who first introduced the law as a private members bill in 2005 – emphasised the importance of recognising that hitting children in the name of discipline is violence and is unacceptable:

“... Police, like paediatricians, see the daily consequences of what happens when people assault their kids just to teach them a lesson.

Some people say that smacking or spanking isn’t violence. I say to them – what else is it? If a burly gang member much larger than you smacked you in the pub tonight, what would you call that?

Some people say that the deaths of children [as a result of child abuse] have nothing to do with this Bill – well I say they have everything to do with it.

There is a spectrum of violence used against our babies and children and one person’s light occasional tap is another person’s beating or shaking to death, all in the name of so-called correction.”

The new law allows for the use of reasonable force for purposes of protection from danger or prevention of damage to people or property (section 1) but states clearly that “nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction” (section 2). It also explicitly recognises standard police practice of exercising discretion as to whether or not to prosecute in very minor cases where there is no public interest in proceeding:

“(4) To avoid doubt, it is affirmed that the Police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent of a child or person in the place of a parent of a child in relation to an offence involving the use of force against a child, where the offence is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.”

Sue Bradford called for close monitoring of future case law to ensure that these provisions are not misused as legal defences for hitting children.

She also called for a well planned public information campaign on the new law and alternatives to physical discipline; an increase in funding for community groups supporting children, parents and families; research and monitoring of public attitudinal change towards corporal punishment; and for close work between government and non-governmental organisations. She concluded:

“...But in the end this Bill isn’t about us here in Parliament or indeed about adults at all.

It is about our children and what I believe is their God-given right to grow up secure in the love of their family, valued as equal citizens to the rest of us and without the constant threat of legalised violence being used against them.”

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in New Zealand.

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Netherlands

On 6 March 2007, a new law prohibiting all corporal punishment by parents and carers was passed in the Senate. The law amends the provisions in the Civil Code on parental authority so that article 1:247 now states (unofficial translation):

“(1) Parental authority includes the duty and the right of the parent to care for and raise his or her minor child. (2) Caring for and raising one’s child includes the care and the responsibility for the emotional and physical wellbeing of the child and for his or her safety as well as for the promotion of the development of his or her personality. In the care and upbringing of the child the parents will not use emotional or physical violence or any other humiliating treatment.”

Article 1:248 of the Code applies article 1:247 to all other persons acting in loco parentis.

The Cabinet agreed to proceed with prohibition in February 2005, following a government-commissioned study on the experiences of abolition in other European countries.

A Department of Justice press release at the time that the “Bill to contribute to the prevention of emotional and physical abuse of children or any other humiliating treatment of children in care and upbringing” was introduced to the Cabinet stressed that the primary purpose of the new law is “to set a standard”.

A later press release from the Department, in September 2005, emphasised that the law would bring the Netherlands into compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and article 17 of the European Social Charter, and address the recommendations made to the Netherlands government by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the European Committee of Social Rights. It also explained the anticipated impact of the ban in relation to criminal law:

“The proposal will not alter child abuse as a punishable offence under the Dutch Penal Code. The Government, however, does expect that the explicit standard in the Dutch Civil Code will have some sort of automatic effect in criminal law. As a result of the new standard, child abuse suspects will find it more difficult to justify their deeds before the court on the basis of parental disciplinary rules, which was until recently sometimes accepted as a justification. This meant that a parent, although it had been factually established that the child had been abused, could not be punished because the disciplining of the child and its upbringing were part of the parental responsibility. By introducing the Bill, the Government hopes to make it easier for care workers to discuss the use of violence as a parenting tool and to convince parents to accept help in bringing up a child.”

Following the passage of the law, a government Communication Plan to inform parents and the general public about the ban was being prepared.

Go to the full country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in the Netherlands.

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Greece

On 19 October 2006, the Greek Parliament passed Law 3500/2006 on the Combating of Intra-family Violence, under which corporal punishment of children within the family is prohibited. Article 4 of the new law states:

“Physical violence against children as a disciplinary measure in the context of their upbringing brings the consequences of Article 1532 of the Civil Code.”

Article 1532 of the Civil Code provides for various consequences for abuse of parental authority, the most serious being the removal of parental authority by the courts. An explanatory report issued to Parliament by Ministers responsible for the introduction of the bill confirmed that “corporal punishment is not included in the permissible disciplinary measure of article 1518 of the Civil Code”. Article 1518 enshrines parents’ right to use “corrective measures” but “only if these are necessary from a pedagogic point of view and do not affect the child’s dignity”.)

The new law results from the work of the Greek Network for the Prevention and Combating of Corporal Punishment of Children, a committee of government and non-government bodies established in October 2005 specifically to draft legislation which would prohibit all corporal punishment, following an earlier finding by the European Committee of Social Rights under the Collective Complaints procedure of the European Social Charter that Greece was in violation of article 17 of the Charter because of the absence of such a prohibition (Resolution ResChS(2005)12, Collective complaint No. 17/2003 by the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) against Greece, adopted by the Council of Ministers on 8 June 2005).

Progress towards prohibition

2002
February: The Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its concluding observations on the initial Greek state party report, expressed concern that corporal punishment was not prohibited in the family and that “about 60 per cent of parents practice corporal punishment of children” (CRC/C/15/Add.170, para. 42 (a)). The Committee recommended that the Greek government “prohibit all forms of violence against children, including corporal punishment, by law in all contexts, including in the family” and “undertake education and awareness campaigns to inform, among others, teachers, parents and medical and law enforcement personnel about the harm of violence, including corporal punishment, and about alternative, non-violent, forms of educating children” (para. 43 (a and b)). 

2003
July: The World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) lodged a complaint against Greece under the Collective Complaints procedure of the European Social Charter alleging, in relation to article 17 of the Charter (the right of mothers and children to social and economic protection), that legislation in Greece did not effectively prohibit corporal punishment of children (Collective Complaint No. 17/2003, OMCT v Greece). The European Committee of Social Rights declared the complaint admissible in December 2003.

2004
April: An informal group of experts was established, including the Greek Ombudsman (Department of Children’s Rights) to promote the abolition of corporal punishment of children in Greece and to prepare for establishing a Network for this purpose.

December: Under the Collective Complaints procedure, the European Committee of Social Rights concluded that there was a violation of article 17 of the Charter because of the absence of explicit prohibition in law of corporal punishment of children within the family, in secondary schools and in other institutions and forms of childcare (7 December 2003, Complaint No. 17/2003 Decisions on the merits).

2005
January: The European Committee of Social Rights informed the Greek government and the Committee of Ministers of its decision that there was a violation of article 17 (see above).

February: A Public Statement by the Greek Ombudsman requested that the government change the law so as to prohibit corporal punishment of children within the family.

April: The Minister of Justice formed a Committee to prepare a new Draft Law on Domestic Violence. The Deputy Ombudsman for Children’s Rights was invited to participate and to introduce proposals for the prohibition of corporal punishment

June: The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers adopted a resolution confirming the findings of the European Committee of Social Rights and noting the progress made by the Greek government towards prohibition of corporal punishment (8 June 2005, Collective Complaint No. 17/2003, Resolution ResChS(2005)12).

July: In its conclusions on examination of the Greek state party report under the reporting procedures of the European Social Charter, and in light of the findings under the Collective Complaint, the European Committee of Social Rights found the situation in Greece to be not in conformity with article 17 “on the ground that there is no prohibition in legislation of all corporal punishment of children” (Conclusions XVII-2).

October/November: The Greek Network for the Prevention and Combating of Corporal Punishment of Children, involving government and non-government organisations, was established specifically to draft legislation which would prohibit all corporal punishment. The media reacted positively to the public announcement of the Network. The action plan of the Network included various activities, such as seminars for professionals, further research, special publications, radio and TV spots. On 25 November , the Minister of Justice announced publicly the new Draft Law on Domestic Violence which was to be introduced for discussion in Parliament. Article 4 of the Draft Law was intended to prohibit corporal punishment, and stated: “Physical violence against children as a corrective measure in the context of their upbringing has the consequences of Article 1532 of the Civil Code”. (Article 1532 punishes abuse of parental authority.) In presenting the new Draft Law, the Minister of Justice stated: “The new law introduces crucial reforms, which I would like to stress in particular:.... For the first time physical violence against children, as a corrective measure in the context of their upbringing, is explicitly prohibited. Our country thus follows the recommendations of the Council of Europe, the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child, as well as the Public Statement of the Greek Ombudsman.”

2006
October: the Greek Parliament passed Law 3500/2006 on the Combating of Intra-family Violence, under which corporal punishment of children within the family is prohibited. Article 4 of the new law states: “Physical violence against children as a disciplinary measure in the context of their upbringing brings the consequences of Article 1532 of the Civil Code.”

November: The new law was announced in a press release issued by the Greek Ombudsman (Department of Children’s Rights) on 1 November:

NEW LAW ON THE PROHIBITION OF CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN GREECE
On October 10th 2006 Greece joined the countries, which have prohibited corporal / physical punishment of children within the family, by law. On that day, the Greek Parliament voted solidly for the abolition of all forms of physical violence, including physical punishment, against children in the context of their upbringing.

Article 4 of the Law 3500/2006 on the Combating of Intra-family violence states: “Physical violence against children as a disciplinary measure in the context of their upbringing brings the consequences of Article 1532 of the Civil Code”. It must be noted that article 1532 CC regulates the consequences of defective exercise of parental responsibility, which vary and can be as severe as the removal of parental responsibility, imposed by the competent court of law.

The wording of Article 4 of the new law has not been to the complete satisfaction of the Greek Network for the Prevention and Combating of Corporal Punishment of Children, which, having embraced the public statement made by the Ombudsman (Children’s Right Department) in February 2005, urged for the use of the term ‘corporal punishment’ instead of the more general “physical violence”.

However, it is important to stress that the Ministers responsible for the introduction of the bill (Minister of the Interior, Minister of the Exchequer, Minister of Education, Minister of Health, Minister of Justice and Minister of Public Order) in their explanatory report to the Parliament made an explicit reference to the term “corporal punishment”, by stating the following: “by the provision of article 4 (of the bill) it is made clear that the corporal punishment of children is not included in the permissible disciplinary measures of article 1518 of the Civil Code.”

Moreover, the definition of the term “physical violence” offered in the above report corresponds with the definition of corporal punishment, put forward by the Ombudsman in his public statement, thus leaving no doubt about the true content of the law.

Lastly, it is stated in the report that the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as well as those of the Council of Europe and the Greek Ombudsman’s public statement on the abolition of corporal punishment have been taken into consideration during the drafting of the bill.

Therefore, article 4 of Law 3500/2006 will form the basis of the campaign, which will be launched by the Greek Network in order to sensitize citizens on the need to abolish the practice of using corporal punishment of children as a means of discipline.

2007
January: The new law came into force on 24 January 2007.

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Greece.

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Hungary

Corporal punishment in the home was prohibited by an amendment to the Act on the Protection of Children and Guardianship Administration (1997), agreed by Parliament in December 2004, which came into force on January 1 2005.

Article 6, para. 5 of the Act now reads (unofficial translation): "The child has the right to be respected his/her human dignity, to be protected against abuse - physical, sexual and mental violence, failure to provide care and injury caused by any information. The child shall not be subjected to torture, corporal punishment and any cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment."

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Hungary.

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Romania

A new Law on Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Child prohibits corporal punishment. The law passed both Chambers of Romanian Parliament in June 2004 and came into force on January 1 2005.

In section 1, Civil Rights and Liberties, article 28 states:

  1. “The child has the right to be shown respect for his or her personality and individuality and may not be made subject to physical punishments or to other humiliating or degrading treatments.
  2. “Disciplinary measures concerning the child can only be taken in accordance with the child’s dignity, and, under no circumstances are physical punishments allowed, or punishments which relate to the child’s physical and mental development or which may affect the child’s emotional status.”

In section 3, Protection of the child against abuse and neglect, article 90 states: “It is forbidden to enforce physical punishments of any kind or to deprive the child of his or her rights, which may result in the endangerment of the life, the physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development, the bodily integrity, and the physical and mental health of the child, both within the family, as well as in any institution which ensures the protection, care and education of children.”

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Romania.

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Ukraine

In Ukraine, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (2001, in force 2002), made all intentional physical and psychological violence against any family member unlawful. Article 1 defines domestic violence as “any intentional action of one family member against another family member if such action infringes Constitutional and civil rights and freedoms of a family member and injures his physical, mental and moral health, and as well as child’s development”. It defines physical domestic violence as “an intentional beating, body injuring of one family member by another as well as intentional limitation of freedom, place of residence, food, clothing and other normal life conditions, which may result in victim’s death or may cause disturbance of his physical and mental health or may harm his honour and dignity”.

But it was not until the new Family Code (2003) came into force in January 2004 that all corporal punishment was explicitly prohibited. Article 150(7) states: “Physical punishment of the child by the parents, as well as other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are prohibited.”

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Ukraine.

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Iceland

In March 2003, the Icelandic government passed a new Children's Act which completes the process of total abolition of corporal punishment of children by making it unlawful in the home. Article 28 of the new Act states: "It is the parents obligation to protect their child against any physical or mental violence and other degrading or humiliating behaviour". This is interpreted by government and by the Ombudsman for Children as explicitly prohibiting corporal punishment by parents, and is supported by provisions in the 2002 Child Protection Act which had already placed an obligation on parents "to treat their children with care and consideration", and "to safeguard their welfare at all times". The new law will enter into effect on November 1 2003.

There is no legal defence available to parents who use corporal punishment, although there is a right to use physical restraint as an emergency measure when an individual is in danger of injuring himself or others. Cases of corporal punishment may come within the scope of the Child Protection Act (2002), which orders imprisonment "if those who have a child in their care mistreat the child mentally or physically, abuse him/her sexually or otherwise, or neglect the child mentally or physically, so that the child's life or health is at risk" (Article 98) and for "any person who inflicts punishments, threats or menaces upon a child, that may be expected to harm the child physically or mentally" (Article 99), and imprisonment or fines for "any person who subjects a child to aggressive, abusive or indecent behaviour or hurts or insults him/her" (Article 99).

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Iceland.

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Turkmenistan

Legislation prohibiting corporal punishment of children in all settings in Turkmenistan was enacted in 2002, though the process of verification of relevant information and obtaining official confirmation that the prohibition is comprehensive has taken many years.

The Law on the Guarantees of the Rights of the Child 2002 was adopted by Parliament on 5 July 2002. Article 24 states (unofficial translation):

“(2) Parents (legal representatives) of the child shall care, sponsor, create conditions for growth, development and enhancement of the child, to bring it up in the spirit of humanity ….
(3) Humiliation of the child’s dignity, corporal punishment, other physical abuse harmful for the child’s mental or physical health are inadmissible.”

Early unofficial English versions of these provisions cast doubt as to whether the prohibition was applicable to all corporal punishment, without exception, or only to corporal punishment perceived as harmful. The near universal acceptance of a degree of violent punishment in childrearing means that some degree of physical punishment is typically not readily perceived as harmful; it can even be perceived as for a child’s own good. For this reason, it was necessary to seek official confirmation that the intention of legislators was to prohibit all forms of corporal punishment without exception. Despite numerous efforts to obtain this and opportunities for clarification by the Government presented by examinations by UN treaty bodies, the required confirmation proved elusive.

In 2012, a new Family Code was adopted, article 85 of which reiterates and expands the provisions in the child law, stating (unofficial translation):

“(2) Humiliation of the dignity of the child, intimidation, corporal punishment, other physical abuse harmful for the child’s mental or physical health are inadmissible.”

Article 89 states:

“(2) When implementing parental rights, parents shall not do injury (harm) to the physical and mental health of the child, its moral development. Methods of education shall exclude neglectful, cruel, … degrading treatment….”

Further efforts were made to verify the prohibition, including preparation of a detailed legal analysis with key questions which was shared with relevant Government officials. In January 2014, the Global Initiative received the necessary confirmation that the law in Turkmenistan is indeed interpreted as prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment in all settings. In a letter dated 13 January 2013, the Permanent Representative of Turkmenistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva informed the Global Initiative:

“… I am pleased to inform you that the Turkmen national institute for democracy and human rights under the President of Turkmenistan has carefully studied ‘legal assessment’ and confirms that the relevant provisions in the Family Code 2012 and the Law on Guarantees of the Rights of the Child 2002 are interpreted as prohibiting all corporal punishment, however light it may be.”

For further information see the Global Initiative country report for Turkmenistan.

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Germany

In July 2000 the Bundestag added a new provision to the German Civil Code which states: "Children have the right to a non-violent upbringing. Corporal punishment, psychological injuries and other humiliating measures are prohibited".

Another Civil Code amendment encourages authorities to provide advice to families on resolving conflicts without violence. In 1997 German law was amended to prohibit "degrading methods of discipline including physical and psychological abuse", but this did not explicitly ban all physical punishment. In October 1998 the Families Minister in the new Government announced that it was committed to prohibiting all corporal punishment: in 2000 it fulfilled its commitment.

The Federal Government and NGOs have collaborated to launch a public campaign to accompany the law reform and encourage parents to raise their children by non-violent means.

The objective of the campaign is not to pillory parents - rather to sensitise them in measured ways as to how they can raise their children with due respect and care. The campaign is two-tiered. One part consists of posters, advertisements and television spots. The other consists of individual projects and community initiatives all around Germany, geared towards supporting parents in the raising of their children. To raise the public profile of the campaign, prominent personalities, including the Federal Minister for Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth have been appointed as ambassadors to promote childrearing by non-violent means.

The campaign website is at: www.mehr-respekt-vor-kindern.de

How Germany banned smacking - a brief summary

This briefing provides a few headlines on what the law reform actually means for children and families and on how and why the ban was introduced. Prepared by Phil Taverner, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) Area Children's Services Manager (UK), who visited Germany to investigate the background to its smacking ban.

What the new law says
The law consists of two key sentences added to the Burgerliches Gesetzbuch, the German Civil Law.

"Children have a right to be brought up without the use of force. Physical punishment, the causing of psychological harm and other degrading measures are forbidden".

Three interesting things to note about the wording of the law are:

  1. It is constructed primarily as a positive declaration affirming children's rights, with the prohibition of smacking following as a natural consequence of this opening statement.

  2. The word "Gewalt", which has been translated above as the English "force", covers more than the act of hitting. It also takes in, for example,
    "a heavy push, a hard pull, twisting an ear, pulling hair and tying (a child) up".

  3. It does not stop at a ban on physical punishment, but also makes the causing of psychological or emotional harm and other degrading measures illegal..

At the same time the Socialgesetzbuch, the German childcare law, was amended to impose an active duty on local authorities to "promote ways in which families can resolve conflict without resort to force".

How the law was introduced
Childcare professionals, children's rights workers and others had been campaigning for some time for a ban on smacking. The breakthrough came shortly after the general election of 1998 when the coalition of the Social Democratic Party and the Greens that formed the new Government included a commitment to ban corporal punishment in their coalition agreement. There was little opposition in either half of the German Parliament or in public, despite the fact that public opinion polls at the time were showing a majority of people opposed to a ban. The only concern expressed was the worry that parents would be criminalised, but this was overcome by writing the ban into the Civil Law. In the event the change was passed in the National Parliament on the 6th July 2000, ratified by the Federal Assembly on 29th September and came into force on the 2nd November.

The Government's aims in taking this step closely matched those of the Swedish Government more than twenty years earlier. By banning all forms of corporal punishment they hoped to:

  • Give children the same legal protection from being hit as adults.

  • Change public attitudes to make all forms of violence against children unacceptable in the population as a whole, leading eventually to a break in the "cycle of violence".

  • Reduce child abuse by allowing professionals to identify with more confidence families whose children may be at risk and to provide help before more serious abuse takes place.

The factors that persuaded the Government that this change was necessary
The paper that laid out the Government's thinking to Parliament explains in detail the reasons behind the decision that a legal ban was needed. In summary these are:

  • The Children's Commission (an all-party group of MPs) had concluded that legal change was needed.

  • An impressive body of research in Germany had established a clear link between childhood experiences of physical punishment and the likelihood that those young people would turn to violence and other forms of anti-social behaviour in their turn. Concern about growing youth crime was high in Germany, and a ban on smacking was clearly seen as an important element of the attempt to turn the tide in the long term.

  • Many other countries had already banned smacking, indicating a growing consensus among European countries that use of any force against children is unacceptable. Germany was keen to learn from these others' experiences and Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Austria were picked out in particular as examples of good practice. It was noted that only a small minority of European countries still hold onto the concept of "reasonable chastisement".

  • Germany is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 19 of this convention affirms a child's right to be protected from all forms of physical or psychological violence.

  • The German constitution applies equally to children and adults. Different articles of this Constitution provide for the protection of each person's value as a human being and for the right to be free from all physical harm from others. To allow a situation to continue in which children can be subjected to physical punishments while adults are legally protected was untenable.

How the change in law was communicated to the public
One of the slogans that accompanied the legal change from the beginning was "Help instead of punishment", stressing the fact that the intention was to change public opinion and provide families with the means to move away from reliance on use of force as a way of resolving conflict.

To this end the introduction of the law was accompanied by a public education campaign entitled "More Respect for Children". This was funded by Central Government but implemented by a combination of federal and local authorities and non-governmental organisations. The precise nature of the campaign varied from place to place due to Germany's federal structure, but employed a wide range of methods to get the message across. These included such things as slots on national TV, the production of leaflets and educational materials for parents, public events and workshops, the introduction of structured "courses" as part of adult education programmes and more.

The main criticism from childcare professionals and rights campaigners was that this campaign was not extensive enough. It is being evaluated at the moment. Preliminary results do show a shift in public opinion already, but the actual results of the evaluation will not be known until the autumn of 2002.

The continuing responsibility for the long-term implementation of the law has been passed to the federal and local authorities by the amendment to the childcare legislation mentioned above.

Although it is early days, there has not been a single prosecution of parents that refers to this new law so far, indicating that the "help instead of punishment" perspective is working.

Children's participation
Although the question of children's participation in decision-making is not strictly speaking directly connected with the ban on smacking, it is a crucial part of the wider scene. In Germany professionals draw a very firm connection between the extent to which children are able to participate in matters of interest to them and their physical safety. This is partly why the campaign referred to more respect for children; if you respect someone enough to give them a say, it becomes much more difficult to justify hitting them in situations of conflict. As long ago as 1980 the Civil Law was amended to give parents a duty to "discuss with the child questions relating to their care and upbringing and strive for a consensus". That this is completely unenforceable is not the point, since it creates an expectation that children have a legal right to be heard. It is possible that the attitudes brought about by the existence of this right for more than 20 years helped pave the way for the eventual ban on smacking.

The final word here should go to the children of Germany. An exercise was held in 2000, culminating in a two day summit meeting involving children elected from all parts of the country and Chancellor Schroeder. The workshop drew up a Charter of children's rights and responsibilities. Three of the children's seven demands were for action to protect children from all forms of physical harm or punishment. Freedom from being hit is clearly a priority for children.

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Germany.

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Israel

In January 2000 the Israel Supreme Court effectively banned all parental corporal punishment, however light. One of the three judges wrote: "In the judicial, social and educational circumstances in which we live, we must not make compromises that can endanger the welfare and physical well-being of minors... If we allow 'light' violence, it might deteriorate into very serious violence. We must not endanger the physical and mental well-being of a minor with any type of corporal punishment. A truth which is worthy must be clear and unequivocal and the message is that corporal punishment is not allowed".

Israel's National Council for the Child declared that the ruling "finally recognised the right of children not to be exposed to violence of any kind, even when those who use violence make excuses for it, saying it is 'educational' or 'punitive'".

In the same year, the Knesset approved legislation to remove the common law "reasonable chastisement" defence. Click here for summary.

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Israel.

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Bulgaria

Corporal punishment is unlawful according to the Child Protection Act (2000). Article 11.2 states: "Every child has a right to protection against all methods of upbringing, that undermine his or her dignity, against physical, psychological or other types of violence and against all forms of influence which go against his or her interests." This is interpreted as prohibiting all corporal punishment of children, including by parents.

According to the Family Code (1985, amended 1992), the basic functions of the family include "establishing within the family relations based on respect, attachment, friendship, common efforts and reciprocal responsibility for its development" (article 4).

The Penal Code prohibits violence which leads to "severe", "medium" and "trivial" bodily injury (articles 128-130), particularly if the victim is a minor (article 131). However, the complexities of the procedure for prosecution in cases of "trivial" bodily injury under the Penal Procedures Code (articles 46 and 57) limit the legal protection afforded children, and there is as yet no associated case-law concerning corporal punishment.

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Bulgaria.

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Croatia

When Croatia's Initial Report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child was examined by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 1996, Government representatives assured the Committee that they would explicitly ban corporal punishment. A new family law received its third reading in the Croatian Parliament in June 1998. It includes a provision, like the Swedish law, prohibiting corporal punishment and humiliation. It came into effect from January 1 1999.

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Croatia.

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Latvia

On June 19 1998 the Latvian Parliament adopted a new law on protection of children's rights. The Law on Protection of the Rights of the Child prohibits cruel treatment, torture and corporal punishment of children, including within the family. It states in article 9.2: “A child cannot be treated cruelly, cannot be tormented and physically punished, and his/her dignity and honour cannot be offended.” The Law makes “failure to discharge parental obligations … the malicious usage of parental authority, the physical punishing of a child, as well as cruel behaviour against him/her” offences under the law (article 24.4), and states that “expression of parental will regarding a child can be limited, regardless of their opinions and religious convictions, if it is discovered that they can physically or morally harm the further development of a child” (article 24.5).

As at 2005, proposals by the Ministry for Children and Family Affairs were under discussion for possible amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Violations with a view to further protecting children from physical and emotional violence in the family.

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Latvia.

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Denmark

In May 1997 the Danish Parliament agreed an amendment to the Parental Custody and Care Act which reads: "A child has the right to care and security. He or she shall be treated with respect as an individual and may not be subjected to corporal punishment or other degrading treatment".

A previous, less explicit reform came into effect in 1986: a private Bill passed by the Danish Parliament on 30 May 1985 came into force on January 1 1986. It amended the Majority Act to state: "Parental custody implies the obligation to protect the child against physical and psychological violence and against other harmful treatment". (A 1984 opinion poll had found only 25 per cent in favour of formal abolition of parents' right to hit children, and 68 per cent against abolition). Commentators indicated at the time that the law reform was an indication to parents that violence should never be used in childrearing, but that its legal effects were uncertain. Subsequently other legal commentators suggested that parents' traditional "right to punish" still existed, and allowed at least minor forms of physical punishment.

As the proposer of the 1997 Bill to amend the law told Parliament, "Danes are increasingly turning away from corporal punishment... A fresh opinion poll in January 1997 showed a clear majority - 57 per cent of the population - were against physical punishment. This shows an unmistakable shift against such punishment".

The proposer emphasised the educational purpose of the change: "In the opinion of the advocates of the change in the law, it is important for those groups who work with families to have firm, clear and unequivocal legal grounds for being able to say that under no circumstances may one use violence in the upbringing of a child... Doctors, the police and social workers come into contact with families where children are regularly beaten. These groups will - if the law is changed - be able to point out that it is wrong to hit a child and instead give advice on other ways to resolve conflicts". The purpose of the change was not to penalise more parents - on the contrary. But "clear legislation and a plainly worded explanation of the reasons for it are vital if we are to change public opinion on the issue of the corporal punishment of children".

The reform followed a series of hearings and consultations and a campaign led by the National Council for Children and Danish Save the Children. The National Council for Children, set up in 1994 for a three-year trial period to fulfil the function of children's ombudsman in Denmark, has now been given permanent status.

Professor Per Schultz Jorgensen, Chair of the Danish National Council for Children 1997 - 2000, comments:

"Explicit legal reform against all corporal punishment of children in Denmark was put into action in June 1997. Previous reforms in the 1980s required parents to protect their children from physical and psychological violence; uncertainties remained about whether it was still permissible to smack children. So the 1997 law makes it absolutely clear that no corporal punishment is permitted. The National Council for Children played an active role in campaigning for the new law, so we decided to be active as well in an information campaign about it. During the autumn of 1998 the National Council has invested resources in reaching every family with minor children in Denmark. The materials include folders, leaflets, pamphlets, films and videos. And so far we feel we have succeeded: many schools and children's institutions ask for more materials. There has also been discussion in newspapers and on national TV channels.

"It is too early to measure any kind of outcome from the legal reform and the information campaign. But nobody doubts that the reform is influencing attitudes towards a more open, accepting and humane practice in the upbringing of children".

The National Council for Children (Borneradet) was established as a permanent, inter-disciplinary and independent body in 1997 to ensure children's rights and to highlight and provide information on the conditions of children's lives.

Holmens Kanal 22, 1060 Copenhagen, Denmark; 00 45 33 92 4500; fax 00 45 33 92 4699; www.boerneraadet.dk

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Denmark.

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 Cyprus

In June 1994, the Cyprus House of Representatives unanimously adopted a new law on prevention of family violence and protection of victims which criminalizes "the exercise of violence on behalf of any member of the family against another member of the family" (Law 147(1) June 1994). It states that, for the purposes of this law, violence means any unlawful act or controlling behaviour which results in direct actual physical, sexual or psychological injury to any member of the family. If any act takes place in the presence of children the act shall be considered as violence exercised against the children likely to cause them psychological injury and such acts or behaviour constitute a punishable offence.

The prohibition was reiterated in a new Act on Violence in the Family adopted in 2000.

In August 2005, the government’s response to the questionnaire in the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children stated that the Children Law provided for a “right to administer punishment”, but this provision was expected to be removed following review.

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Cyprus.

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 Austria

On March 15 1989 the Austrian Parliament voted to amend its family law and the Youth Welfare Act to state explicitly that in bringing up children "using violence and inflicting physical or mental suffering is unlawful". The new law was passed unanimously and without controversy. The Austrian Minister for Environment, Youth and the Family stated: "The motive for this reform is our knowledge of the immeasurable harm children suffer when parents are not willing or able to avoid physical punishment as a way of bringing up their children. I hope other countries will follow us in ruling out physical punishment".

Statement from Paul Arzt, Children's Ombudsperson for Salzburg and a spokesperson for the Austrian Conference of Ombudspersons for Children and Youth:

"The Austrian Ombudspersons for Children and Youth take it for granted that the national legislation concerning physical punishment in the family, in schools and generally is a very important tool to secure the healthy and respectful upbringing of all children in our country.

"We feel that - although there are still cases of physical punishment - the legal structure is a very important measure in awareness raising and has influenced the public debate on physical punishment and the "culture of education" to a very high degree.

"According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child it is important that all States Parties take their responsibility to change or adopt their national laws with the aim of making physical punishment illegal. Additionally all relevant measures outside the legal framework (e.g. counselling services, media campaigns etc.) to promote the issue of non-violent education should be supported to the highest possible extent.

"The aim of the law is to change attitudes and reduce physical punishment and it certainly has not resulted in any increase in prosecution of parents for hitting their children, or increase in children being taken into state care".

Paul Arzt, Kinder und Jugendanwaltschaft Salzburg, Strubergasse 4, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria 00 43 662 430 550; fax 00 43 662 430590, www.salzburg.com/kija

Each of the nine "lander" (regions) of Austria has an Ombudsperson for Children and Youth. Collectively they form the Conference of Ombudspeople for Children and Youth, in order to comment on federal matters.

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Austria.

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Norway

In January 1987 an amendment to the Parent and Child Act took effect. It states: "The child shall not be exposed to physical violence or to treatment which can threaten his physical or mental health". This followed a recommendation from an official committee looking at child abuse and neglect, which was taken up by the Ministry of Justice. As was the case prior to legal reform in Denmark, a1983 opinion poll in Norway found that 68 per cent were still against prohibiting all physical punishment.

Up to 1972 the Norwegian Criminal Code on assault, dating from 1891, stated that parents and others in loco parentis had the right to use moderate corporal punishment as part of the upbringing of children. In 1972 that provision was removed, amid a lot of controversy. This caused more rather than less confusion about parents' rights to punish.

When the amendment to the Parent and Child Act was being debated in the Norwegian Parliament, the Minister of Justice suggested that even though parental physical violence was already prohibited in the Criminal Code, the new reform was not superfluous. For many people did not understand or know about the law, and making corporal punishment clearly illegal in the Parent and Child Act would inform the general public. There was considerable lack of clarity about parents' rights and the legal change in 1972 had been just as confusing as clarifying. Now there would be no doubt: in applying the criminal law, the child would have the same protection as everyone else from the use of violence. It was not sufficient to protect children from "real" pain and "unnecessary" humiliation. Corporal punishment as a way of bringing up children was no longer acceptable.

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Norway.

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Finland

In Finland, the ban on physical punishment formed part of a comprehensive reform of children's law. The Child Custody and Right of Access Act 1983 begins with a statement of positive principles of care for children, and continues: "A child shall be brought up in the spirit of understanding, security and love. He shall not be subdued, corporally punished or otherwise humiliated. His growth towards independence, responsibility and adulthood shall be encouraged, supported and assisted." This reform in family law puts beyond doubt that the criminal law applies equally to assaults committed against children by parents and other carers.

Matti Savolainen of the Ministry of Justice in Helsinki, who was responsible for drafting the 1983 Act, describes section 1 of the Act as incorporating three strategies: "Firstly the Act attempts to establish certain 'positive' guidelines for the upbringing of the child. Secondly the Act makes it absolutely clear that all violations against the child's integrity (whether 'physical' or 'spiritual') which would constitute a criminal offence if committed by a third person (e.g. assault, unlawful imprisonment, libel, slander, etc.) are equally punishable even when committed by a parent with the intent to discipline the child. And under the Criminal Code even a petty assault committed against a child under 15 is subject to public prosecution when committed by a parent at home. Thirdly the Act explicitly forbids also any degrading treatment ('the child shall not be humiliated') even where such an act would not constitute a criminal offence and even if there are no other direct legal remedies available."

A public information campaign was launched by the Ministry of Justice and National Board of Social Affairs, including a leaflet entitled What is a good upbringing?, made available through health clinics, social welfare offices and so on. A large-scale campaign was also launched by the Central Union for Child Welfare, an NGO, together with the National Boards of Health and Social Affairs, including a leaflet When you can't cope, find help: don't hit the child.

There were also brief spots on national television at peak viewing time before the main evening news programme as the law came into effect. This is a translation of the commentary on one of them:

Do you hit your child?

Is that how you bring him up?

All physical punishment deflates a child's ego. Even a slap makes him or her feel worthless.

A worthless person becomes indifferent.

Through slapping you are raising a bully.

Talk to the child. Settle your differences through discussion.

Make the child party to an agreement. That way you both win.

Decide to deserve your child's respect. As a person.

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Finland.

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Sweden

Sweden was the first country in the world to prohibit all corporal punishment of children. In 1979 a provision was added to the Parenthood and Guardianship Code which now reads: "Children are entitled to care, security and a good upbringing. Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subjected to corporal punishment or any other humiliating treatment."

The proposal, together with a draft Bill, came from a multi-disciplinary Children's Rights Commission, chaired by an eminent judge, which emphasised: "The primary purpose of the provision is to make it clear that beating children is not permitted. Secondly, the Commission wishes to create a basis for general information and education for parents as to the importance of giving children good care and as to one of the prime requirements of their care. The proposed provision should, in the long term, contribute towards reducing the number of cases of acts of physical violence on children". It proposed a "recurrent general parent education programme". When the Bill went before Parliament it was passed by 259 votes to 6.

The Ministry of Justice led a very large-scale education campaign. A pamphlet distributed to every household with children emphasised that "the law now forbids all forms of physical punishment of children, including smacking etc, although it goes without saying that you can still snatch a child away from a hot stove or open window if there is a risk of its injuring itself".

The legal provision forms part of Sweden's family (civil) law. But its purpose is to emphasise beyond doubt that the criminal code on assault covers physical punishment, although trivial offences remain unpunished just as trivial assaults between adults are not prosecutable.

A detailed research review of the effects of Sweden's ban has been carried out by Professor Joan E Durrant, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Family Studies at the University of Manitoba. See A Generation Without Smacking - The impact of Sweden's ban on physical punishment (1.9 MB PDF).

Statement from Sweden's first Children's Ombudsman, Louise Sylwander:

The anti-spanking law has influenced Swedish Society

"The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which every European country has accepted, strengthens the position of children within the family and in society as a whole. Everyone who meets a child has the responsibility to treat the child with respect. Children are in a vulnerable situation in relation to adults, and therefore they must be guaranteed a safe childhood: a childhood without violence including physical chastisement.

"Physical punishment is not in accordance with the UN Child Convention. And the European Court of Human Rights recently unanimously found the physical punishment of a young English boy by his stepfather breached article 3 of the European Convention. It is very important, therefore, that society clearly underlines that children and young people have a right to an upbringing based on parental support and encouragement rather than chastisement.

"In Sweden, there has been a ban on subjecting children to spanking since 1979. It goes without saying that this ban has not ended all forms of violence to children in our country. But it is obvious that attitudes towards violence and the use of physical punishment have changed for the better and today there is strong public opinion in favour of the Swedish anti-spanking law.

"No more than 11 per cent of the adult population in Sweden are positively inclined to even minor forms of physical punishment. Recent studies by Statistics Sweden show that spanking has become less common in our society. Attitudes have changed substantially since 1965 when a similar study was done. Only two per cent of today's middle school pupils report being spanked every other week, and 78 per cent report that they have never been spanked. The change in the Swedish Parental Code prohibiting spanking of children has played an important role in this positive development.

"During the last two decades, reporting of child abuse and neglect has increased. There is no clear evidence which indicates a corresponding increase in actual cases of child abuse in Sweden. Everything points to other explanations such as better awareness and knowledge of children in vulnerable situations. As mentioned above, attitudes in society have also changed: people today are less willing to accept violence against children. Another reason is that the reporting obligations under the Social Welfare Act have been strengthened and many more groups of professionals are now obliged to report children at risk - so less cases of child abuse and neglect fail to come to the attention of the social welfare authorities.

"In other countries, for example the USA and Canada, the number of reports of child abuse and neglect have also increased. In Belgium, the numbers have increased by almost 70 per cent between 1986 and 1992.

"The State's obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child demands that all measures must be undertaken for the implementation of the rights recognised in the Convention. Legislation is only one of the measures, but it is an important statement from society that we are no longer accepting physical chastisement of children.

"When the Bill on the anti-spanking law was put forward a member of the Swedish Parliament said: "If we as parents cannot convince our children with words, then we shall never convince them with violence."

Louise Sylwander, Sweden's Children's Ombudsman, December 1993 - 2000

Norr Malarstrand 6, Box 22106, 10422 Stockholm, Sweden www.bo.se

Additional Resources available to download:

Ending corporal punishment - Swedish Government booklet

A Generation Without Smacking - The impact of Sweden's ban on physical punishment (1.9 MB PDF).

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Sweden.

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Italy

In May 1996 the Supreme Court in Rome in a landmark judgement stated that "the use of violence for educational purposes can no longer be considered lawful". It stated that "the very expression 'correction of children', which expresses a view of child-rearing that is both culturally anachronistic and historically outdated, should in fact be re-defined, abolishing any connotation of hierarchy or authoritarianism and introducing the ideas of social and responsible commitment which should characterise the position of the educator vis a vis the learner".

Click here for summary of judgment.

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Italy.

Nepal

Section 7 of the Child Act (1992, in force 1993) states: “No child shall be subjected to torture or cruel treatment. Provided that, the act of scolding and minor beating to the child by his father, mother, member of the family, guardian or teacher for the interests of the child shall himself not be deemed to violate the provision of this section.” Following a writ petition filed by the Centre for Victims of Torture in Nepal on 16 June 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the restrictive clause in section 7 was unconstitutional and, in accordance with article 88 of the Constitution (1990), declared the portion “or give him/her minor beating” null and void with immediate effect (Mr Devendra Ale et al v Office of the Prime Minister & Cabinet et al, Supreme Court decision 6 January 2005). The judgment also issued a directive to the government “to pursue appropriate and effective measures to prevent physical punishment as well as other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or abuse being imposed or inflicted on and likely to be imposed or inflicted on children”.

Click here for summary of judgment.

See the country report on laws and research relating to corporal punishment in Nepal.

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