Eliminating all corporal punishment of children requires a combination of explicit law reform, protection and prevention policies, and other, primarily educational, measures to move societies on from accepting violent and humiliating punishment.
Effective prohibition of corporal punishment of children means that it is explicitly prohibited in laws affecting children’s protection. Laws are needed to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings – in the home, in schools, in penal systems and alternative care settings. Without law reform, the idea will persist that breaching a child’s human dignity and physical integrity is acceptable.
Prohibition in law is essential but alone it is not enough to guarantee children’s human rights. Professionals working with children, parents, children themselves and the public at large need to be informed of the law and of children’s right to protection. Governments should therefore provide a range of policy measures to support the law’s implementation. The laws need also to be accompanied with extensive awareness raising actions which will challenge existing social acceptance of adults hitting children and inflicting other humiliation treatment on them as “reasonable punishment and correction of children”. Striking a human being is prohibited in European societies and children are human beings.
State services to combat domestic violence must broaden to include combating corporal punishment. This entails educating parents, child service providers, teachers, social workers and protection agencies about the negative effects and unlawfulness of corporal punishment. It also entails providing support interventions to parents and educating about alternatives to using corporal punishment in child rearing, alternatives such as positive and non-violent parenting.
Much progress has been achieved in recent years. A majority of the Council of Europe member states have now committed themselves to put an end to all corporal punishment of children. The aim of bringing about a continent wide ban on corporal punishment of children has not yet been reached, however.
Off the books! Guidance for Europe's parliaments on law reform to eliminate corporal punishment of children: English - French - Macedonian