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Government urged to introduce ban on smacking children

The Children’s Rights Alliance has questioned why children are protected against abuse in school but do not have the same protections at home.

Image: Slapping child image via Shutterstock

THE CHILDREN’S RIGHTS Alliance (CRA) has called on Minister Frances Fitzgerald to honour the government’s commitment to ban corporal punishment and introduce a complete ban on slapping children.

The government has until 27 September to respond to the European Committee of Social Rights following a formal complaint against Ireland by the Association for the Protection of All Children (APPROACH).

CRA said that under Irish law, physical punishment of children by parents or legal caregivers, childminders and foster parents is currently allowed. The association has called on the government to remove the common law defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ and introduce an outright ban on violence against children in all settings.

Chief Executive Tanya Ward said today that physical punishment of children is “invariably degrading and harmful”.

“It is abuse and ill-treatment; it never does any good,” she said. “Our law recognises that we cannot strike another adult, why can we still strike children?”

Ward added that as children return to school this week, we must ask ourselves “why they are protected against abuse in school but do not have the same protection at home”.

The complaint by APPROACH is the latest in a string of similar complaints and follows the recommendation in a report of the Rapporteur on Child Protection that corporal punishment be banned in Ireland.

In a statement,  the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said corporal punishment is prohibited in a number of settings. It added that the Children Act 2001 made it an offence for anyone who has the custody, charge of care of a child to wilfully assault or ill-treat them.

The department said that any proposal to prohibit the defence of reasonable chastisement requires careful consideration.

There is a balance to be found between supporting parents in effective parenting, in particular, in use of non-violent forms of discipline, and the use of criminal law to impose criminal sanctions on parents who do not adhere to best practice in parenting.

Considerable progress has been made in recent years in encouraging parents to use alternative non-violence forms of discipline in the family setting, the department added.

Read: 800,000 calls to Childline in 2012 – but 34 per cent unanswered>

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