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Should ban on smacking children be enforced?

30th April 2010

Libby Brooks writes in The Guardian about why a ban on smacking in Britain might be difficult to bring in, but gives an important message.

woman&childQ

I once chased after my four-year-old godson in order to stop him from running into a busy road. The only way to prevent him rushing into the oncoming traffic was by rugby tackling him to a stop.

This resulted in him banging his head on the pavement. He was upset, but not hurt, and it proved sometimes "brawn wins over brain" with children.

At the start of the 18th century, crying babies were rubbed with salt, wrapped in swaddling and hung up on a nail. Women looking after babies in that era would certainly raise an eyebrow at the fuss we make today about children sleeping and controlled crying.

However, one subject has consistently failed to be tackled and that is physical punishment.

This week the Council of Europe, which is responsible for monitoring how compliant countries are with the European convention on human rights, criticised Britain for failing to bring in a ban on smacking over ten years after "a ruling that the practice violated children's right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment".

Britain is one of just five countries in the European Union that has not yet brought in a ban on physical punishment for children.

Any proposals to outlaw smacking generate a huge amount of argument and opinion in this country. It seems useless to point out that the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child was drafted with heavy involvement from the British government.

Physical punishment is an emotional topic, but it is also a contradictory one. While we shed tears over the death of Baby P, we are not allowed to suggest that smacking has a place on the spectrum of child abuse.

Of the political parties in Britain, only the Liberal Democrats have said in their manifesto that they will incorporate the UN convention into law. 

Smacking is abuse, however you try to condone it, and "this generation of legislators must surely be the first to acknowledge that, even if beating did them no harm, it certainly did them no good".

 

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