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Smacking - Should it be banned?

February 4, 2014



Children are precious, fragile and easily influenced. Our childhood is where we learn the trust, values, skills, and worth that we carry into adulthood, and we would agree that child abuse is a very serious issue as it has short term and long term consequences.


Recently the debate on smacking was brought to the public attention by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, who informed the Australian Government that parents who smack their children should be prosecuted, and professionals such as teachers and child care workers should be trained to identify and report such abuse. This body wants Australia to abolish the long standing right of parents to use “reasonable chastisement” in smacking a child. They expressed concerns that "corporal punishment in the home and in some schools and alternative care settings remains lawful in Australia".


While the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child gives parents the right to “discipline”, the Committee demanded that parents use other forms and compares smacking to domestic violence and assault.

Except perhaps for the debate about immunisation, I don’t know of many other topics that stir such passion. Opinions are divided on whether spanking is helpful or harmful to immediate behavior and its impact long term, and so public attitudes towards the acceptability and effectiveness of spanking vary a great deal by nation, region, culture and religion.

Smacking, which can also be called domestic corporal punishment, corporal punishment in the home, or parental corporal punishment, is the use of physical force for the purpose of correction or control of behavior from parent/guardian to child. 

It typically involves the punishment of a child by the adult spanking or slapping with an open hand, but occasionally with a wooden spoon, belt, slipper, cane or paddle.

Adding more passion to the debate, the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbot rejected the call for a ban, admitting that he smacked his three daughters now in their 20s. He warned that a ban would take political correctness "to extremes".


Medical experts, including the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, do not agree. They have backed calls for a ban, saying physically punishing children increases the risk of future mental health problems, including depression and a tendency to adopt aggressive behaviour.


"Smacking is potentially quite dangerous," Prof Kim Oates, from the college, told ABC News. "Pediatricians see child abuse, and we know that quite a lot of child abuse starts off as smacking that gets out of control Why take the risk?" (Friday, Dec 13, 2013, 9:47 IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph)

In many religions, cultures and societies, parents have historically been regarded as having the duty of disciplining their children, and the right to spank them when appropriate. Many people believe a certain amount of corporal punishment for their own children is appropriate and necessary, and thus such practice is accepted by society as a whole.


However, attitudes in many countries have changed. Smacking children is illegal in 34 countries, including New Zealand, Germany and Spain.


Countries that have banned smacking include 2010:

 Albania1989 Austria2000 Bulgaria2010 Congo, Republic of 2008 Costa Rica1999 Croatia1994 Cyprus1997 Denmark1983 Finland2000 Germany2006 Greece2013 Honduras2004 Hungary2003 Iceland2000 Israel2010 Kenya1998 Latvia2008 Liechtenstein2008 Luxembourg2008 Moldova2007 Netherlands2007 New Zealand1987 Norway2010 Poland2007 Portugal2004 Romania2011 South Sudan2007 Spain1979 Sweden2007 Togo2010 Tunisia2004 Ukraine2007 Uruguay2007 Venezuela 2007


I will leave the final word to Megan Mitchell, Australia's new children's commissioner. She said she supported a "national conversation" about a smacking ban. "We certainly don't want children growing up in fear of violence, and replicating violence," she said. "But we don't want to be criminalising parents for trying to save their child from running across a road."

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