Medical associations oppose corporal punishment

Date: 8th August 2013
Category: Civil Rights and Freedoms

Child health experts from Australia and New Zealand have launched a campaign to overturn laws allowing parents to use physical punishment against children in the name of discipline.

Part of the initiative by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), which represents 14,000 physicians, is a public awareness campaign to educate parents about the harm corporal punishment causes children and about the alternatives.

"Many cases of physical abuse are the result of physical punishment that became more severe than intended and the difficulty with allowing the physical punishment of children is that the line can be easily blurred between abuse and 'reasonable' force or chastisement that is currently permitted in some states when disciplining a child," said the College's Associate Professor Susan Moloney. In its position statement, the RACP recommends that existing law be reformed to make all forms of corporal punishment unlawful so that children are protected by law against assault to the same extent as adults.

  • Download the position statement here.

Last year the United Kingdom's Royal College of Paediatrics made a similar move, warning that parents should be banned from smacking their children because of the risk that "today's smack will become tomorrow's punch", and on the basis that "[c]hildren should be provided with the same protection against physical assault as adults".

  • Read the full story here.

Despite repeated calls by the UN Committee and more recently through the UK's examination under the Universal Periodic Review (where Norway, Finland and Sweden called for the UK to ban all corporal punishment of children) children in Scotland still do not have the same protection from assault as adults in law. Children's organisations continue to raise the need for the removal of the defence of 'justifiable assault' and for the promotion of positive, non-violent parenting methods.

A law is being drafted in South Africa to ban the use of corporal punishment in the home. And in Liberia, the NGO Defence for Children International-Liberia has called on the Government to abolish corporal punishment of children in all settings, saying that doing so is key for eliminating harmful social and cultural practices in the country. Under current law, children can be physically punished by adults in schools, the home and alternative care settings.

  • Access more information here.