British government may bar parents from spanking

Posted: Sunday, July 13, 2003

LONDON Spanking children can lead to more severe abuse, two parliamentary committees says, and urges the government to pass a law barring parents from hitting their children.

The government has already outlawed corporal punishment in day care centers and schools.

But parents and guardians are still permitted to use spanking as ''reasonable chastisement,'' putting Britain out of step with several European countries where all physical punishment of children is illegal.

Lawmakers on the two parliamentary committees the Health Committee and the Human Rights Committee found that a ''reasonable chastisement'' defense is too often used to excuse violent behavior that goes far beyond a ''loving smack.''

They suggested the right of such a defense be repealed, but acknowledged it might be hard to win public support for new laws that could lead to parents being prosecuted for mild smacks.

The Human Rights Committee made up of lawmakers in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons said current British law doesn't acknowledge children's right to be free from physical assault.

''The time has come for the government to act upon ... the incompatibility of the defense of 'reasonable chastisement' with its obligations under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child,'' the committee said.

Physical punishment of children is illegal in several European countries, including Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Austria.

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