The British Charity Campaigning Tirelessly to Ban Smacking… in France

Happy Family Children Wikimedia
Catherine Scott / Wikimedia

Having already successfully lobbied for an almost complete ban on parents making their own decisions on correcting their children, a British charity has set its sights on mopping up resistance to their agenda abroad.

British-registered charity Association for the Protection of all Children, otherwise known as End Corporal Punishment, and ‘Approach’, has brought a formal complaint against the French state at the European Committee of Social Rights.

Present French laws bans smacking children in all cases except for when it is ‘educational’, for instance where it would teach a child that a certain action could be dangerous or harmful to them, a system which France claims works to protects the young from genuine abuse. This is a situation that Approach considers insufficient, and they want to see a complete ban in France.

The campaign is just a small part of a European-wide initiative by the European Union to ban the smacking of children in every member state, with the Council of Europe calling it a “violation of their [Children’s] human rights”, reports

The website of the organisation behind Approach expresses a similar world view, saying: “Corporal punishment of children breaches their fundamental human rights to respect for human dignity and physical integrity. Its legality in almost every state worldwide – in contrast to other forms of inter-personal violence – challenges the universal right to equal protection under the law”.

Despite the fervour of the campaign group, smacking bans remain unpopular and the science behind the ban is disputed. Recent polls have shown as little as one fifth of British adults support the ban, while six in ten supported parents having the option if they needed it.

A report by the British Medical Journal has questioned the justifications behind a smacking ban, and especially the use of Sweden as a good case study of a country where a smacking ban has been successful. The 2000 reports says: “All eight of those studies, including four randomized clinical trials, found nonabusive smacking to have beneficial child effects when used to back up milder disciplinary tactics with 2- to 6-year-olds. Smacking then makes milder tactics more effective, not “harder to use” as [claimed]”.

The report also criticised studies which used examples of corporal punishment that included  “beating with a stick… burning… using a knife or gun” as illegal and therefore irrelevant.

A 2004 report by the Christian Institute also questioned the findings of the pro-ban lobby, questioning research that purported to show smacking had no effect on societal outcomes. The report, entitled ‘Sweden’s Smacking Ban, More Harm Than Good’ showed that after the ban incidences of violence between young people actually increased by some hundreds of percent.

Concluding, the report noted: “At every point, the evidence contradicts [Save the Children’s] conclusions… Their rates of physical child abuse and criminal assaults by minors against minors have increased at least five- or six-fold since the smacking ban”.

“I do not question the good intentions of [Save the Children’s] and other advocates for smacking bans. They sincerely think that smacking bans will improve the welfare of children. Unfortunately, there is no objective evidence that the overall situation has improved for children in countries that have adopted smacking bans”.