Ending physical punishment of children and meeting international human rights standards has been highlighted at an event in Belfast organised by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission said: Most adults wouldn’t dream of raising their hands to strike another grown-up. It is not okay for an adult who has caring responsibility for an older person to hit or smack that person. Why is it okay then for an adult with caring responsibility for a child to hit or smack them? Northern Ireland law still allows the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ for parents who physically punish their children. We should follow the example of Wales and ensure children receive the same legal protection from violence as adults. We need to bring Northern Ireland law in line with human rights standards and end the corporal punishment of children.”

NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma added: “We want to be clear that this isn’t about criminalising parents. Parents have one of the toughest and yet most rewarding jobs and for too long now they have been given mixed messages about how to effectively discipline their children. Changes to the law must go hand in hand with positive parenting support and guidance on constructive ways of managing challenging and stressful situations. We need to redefine what is acceptable in how we treat our children and what we teach them through our own behaviour. We want the law in Northern Ireland to send a clear message that no forms of physical violence or force are acceptable in our homes.”

A proposed ban on smacking children has just been overwhelmingly backed in principle by the Scottish Parliament and legislation to ban parents from physically punishing children in Wales is a step closer after the Welsh Government recently published a bill removing “reasonable punishment” as a defence. Fifty-four countries across the world already prohibit the physical punishment of children.

Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan


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