European Watchdog Rules on Corporal Punishment

Date: 29th May 2015
Category: Equal protection from violence

Ireland, Slovenia, Belgium & the Czech Republic are failing to protect children from violence because their laws do not ban all corporal punishment of children.

The ruling comes in response to a series of complaints - submitted under the collective complaints procedure by the Association for the Protection of All Children (APPROACH) - claiming that the States were not complying with their obligations under the European Social Charter, which requires Member States to protect children and young people from violence.

Corporal punishment of children remains lawful in the family home in all four States. In Ireland, it is also lawful in foster care, residential care settings and some child-minding services. Meanwhile in Slovenia, Belgium and the Czech Republic it is lawful in some or all alternative care and daycare settings, and the Czech Republic also lacks explicit prohibition in institutions for children in conflict with the law.

Peter Newell, Coordinator of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children said:

"We hope that the decisions will encourage governments in these [S]tates to take immediate action to reform their laws to afford children legal protection from all violent punishment, in the family home and elsewhere".

Corporal punishment in Scotland

As stated in Chapter 3 (Civil Rights and Freedoms) of Together's State of Children's Rights 2014 report:

'Children do not have the same level of protection from violence as adults in Scots law. There is a provision for 'justifiable assault' which parents can use as a defence when or if they physically assault a child'.

The Scottish Government stated in its submission to the 2014 UK UNCRC periodic report that it 'does not consider it appropriate to criminalise parents for lightly smacking their children' and that there is 'currently no intention to change the law in this area'. Children's organisations are clear that if the Scottish Government is serious about its commitment to make Scotland 'the best place to grow up', it needs to give children equal protection from assault in law by removing 'justifiable assault' of children.

Scotland is coming under increasing international pressure to give children equal protection from violence. Together is submitting a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on 1st July 2015 as part of a UK review on the implementation of children's rights under the UNCRC. The report will call for UK governments to take immediate action to ensure equal protection from assault for children and adults. It is therefore highly likely that this issue will be discussed by the UN Committee in the forthcoming review (2015/2016) and that Scotland will come under further pressure to take action to protect children from assault.