Prohibition of all corporal punishment in Iceland (2003)

In March 2003, the Icelandic government passed a new Children's Act which completed the process of total abolition of corporal punishment of children by making it unlawful in the home. Article 28 of the 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 entered into effect on 1 November 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" (art. 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" (art. 99), and imprisonment or fines for "any person who subjects a child to aggressive, abusive or indecent behaviour or hurts or insults him/her" (art. 99).


Further information

  • Global Initiative country report for Iceland
  • Children Act 2003 (English)
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