Human rights watchdogs in Northern Ireland are calling for a ban on parents and carers smacking children as similar campaigns in Wales and Scotland gain traction.
Northern Ireland’s Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and Children’s Commissioner yesterday (May 29) held a meeting in Belfast calling for an end to corporal punishment.
They were joined by Julie Morgan, the Welsh Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, who introduced a bill to ban physical punishment of children which is currently being scrutinised in the National Welsh Assembly.
In Belfast to talk about our efforts to end the physical punishment of children in Wales at @NIHRC and @nichildcom event calling for similar legislation in Northern Ireland. Met Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of Northern Ireland Human Rights Commissionhttps://t.co/8uZlqI4lGH pic.twitter.com/WcAnBNhzs3
— Julie Morgan (@wgdep_health) May 29, 2019
The event also comes as Members of Scottish Parliament (MSPs) on Tuesday (May 28) backed, in principle, a similar bill granting children the same legal protection from assault as adults.
Speaking ahead of the event, the NIHRC’s Chief Commissioner Les Allamby, said: “Most adults wouldn’t dream of raising their hands to strike another grown up.
“It is not OK for an adult who has caring responsibility for an older person to hit or smack that person.
“Why is it OK then for an adult with caring responsibility for a child to hit or smack them?”
He added: “We need to bring Northern Ireland law in line with human rights standards and end the corporal punishment of children.”
‘Reasonable Punishment’: Where Does NI Law Currently Stand?
Parents in England, Wales and NI who punish their children using violence are currently able to use the defence of “reasonable punishment”.
But they can face criminal charges if they hit the child so hard that it leaves a mark or causes injury.
Changes to the law must go hand in hand with positive parenting support and guidance on constructive ways of managing challenging and stressful situations.
Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner, Koulla Yiasouma
Those who have argued against the law have typically expressed concerns that it will criminalise parents and allow the state to interfere in the right to private and family life.
But NI’s Children’s Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma said: “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.”
What About Human Rights?
Image Credit: Pixabay
Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the UK ratified in 1991, requires states to take “legislative, administrative, social and educational measures” to protect children from all forms of physical and mental violence from carers.
The case can also be made that smacking also contravenes Article 37 of the Convention which protects children from torture and degrading treatment.
Follow the links below to learn more about this issue:
- The smacking debate in Scotland and Wales.
- Read our explainer on parental rights and how they are protected
- Check out our nifty infographic on Article 3 and the right not to be tortured
- Read about our interview with Jean Lambert MEP on the issue of children’s rights