Britain must completely ban parents from smacking their children, a report submitted to the UN has demanded.
The UK’s four children’s commissioners call for the “immediate” repeal of all laws permitting parents to physically chastise their children and tell the government to re-educate parents who persist smacking in “non-violent forms of child rearing and behaviour management”.
In their report, assessing whether the UK is keeping to its commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the four unelected officials also criticise the government’s austerity measures, which they claim drives millions of children into poverty.
The Telegraph reports that they even take aim at government plans to scrap the 1998 Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, a manifesto pledge of the present government.
Their report says of smacking: “The state party and the devolved governments should immediately prohibit all corporal punishment in the family and in all other institutions and forms of alternative care, including through the repeal of legal defences, and actively promote positive and non-violent forms of child rearing and behaviour management.”
At the moment it is legal for parents in England and Wales to smack their children if their actions constitute “reasonable punishment”. Similarly, in Scotland and Northern Ireland separate legislation allows for “justifiable assault”.
The position of children’s commissioner was invented by New Labour 2004 to “promote awareness” of children’s rights. The current commissioner for England is Anne Longfield, former chief executive of charity 4Children who have consistently lobbied for a blanket ban on smacking.
Sally Holland, a professor of Social Work at Cardiff University, fills the brief for Wales while Tam Baillie serves in Scotland. Northern Ireland’s commissioner is Koulla Yiasouma, another charity worker.
In 2010, a government inquiry found the role of children’s commissioner was “flawed” and its impact of the £140,000 position was “disappointing”.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis expressed his support for smacking, saying the parents should be free to administer corporal punishment provided it is not done to humiliate them.