We believe changing the law alone is not enough to change public attitudes and affect parents’ behaviour with respect to corporal punishment. The issue must be brought into the public sphere. As studies have shown, legal reform in itself is not sufficient in shaping opinions and influencing social norm. Without public awareness-raising, it will be difficult to achieve large-scale behavioural change and lasting prevention of violence against children.
The Swedish example is a good case in point: In 1979 Sweden became the first country to make all forms of physical punishment against children illegal. The Swedish experience is a useful model for how law reform can be implemented effectively and sensitively with the aid of public awareness-raising. The campaign was very successful: by 1981, 99% of the population was aware of the law, a level of awareness never even approached for any other legislative change in any country (Boyson and Thorpe 2002). In 2001, Germany modelled its introduction of the legal reform on the Swedish example and implemented a broad and comprehensive information campaign. Similarly to the Swedish campaign, it included the promotion of a non-violent, effective and rewarding parenting approach (see Equal Protection, Germany). Both countries further strengthened their legal reform by allocating financial resources to local level parent support services.
The examples show that if the law is stated explicitly and accompanied by comprehensive publicity of the law and its benefits, societal attitudes towards corporal punishment change and become less supportive.
Lobbying for a Legal Ban on Smacking
For many years, NSPCC has campaigned to make all forms of corporal punishment illegal in all settings. In addition to press releases and media liaison work, the charity has taken part in numerous events to raise awareness of the need to reform the Children Act 2004.
NSPCC participated in 2008 inter alia in a big event organised by the Churches’ Network for Non-Violence which discussed the issue of corporal punishment with leaders from different faith communities in the UK. The event provided the great opportunity to discuss and outline different theological arguments in favour of ending corporal punishment. Dame Mary Marsh, Former Director and Chief Executive of the NSPCC, gave a speech encouraging faith leaders to be more vocal in their opposition to corporal punishment.
The NSPCC also supported a group of young people to participate in the event; they gave a drama presentation which highlighted the high levels of confusion with the wording of the current law, and one young person co-chaired the event.
In October 2008, 50 Bishops from the Church of England released a statement encouraging members of parliament to make all forms of corporal punishment illegal. (Download the full statement).
A World Without Smacking
In Poland , throughout 2008 there has been a sometimes heated debate about corporal punishment of children in the home. It was brought about by the government’s intention to introduce a ban on all forms of corporal punishment of children. The plan is strongly supported by the Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, but has encountered opposition from some members of parliament and even from the Legislative Council, the senior legal advisory body to the Prime Minister.
At their Annual Conference on 27-28 October 2008, FDN held a session on the introduction of a legal ban of corporal punishment in the home in Poland. The session was organised with the support of the Ministry of Justice and the Warsaw City Hall and attracted an audience of 600 people- a number of which were professionals working with children and/or parents. The session presented and discussed the status quo of the debate in Poland, public attitudes and legal controversies, and introduced current campaigns promoting non-violent parenting. More on the event
In 2009, FDN will be involved in the implementation of a broad media campaign in Poland entitled ”?wiat bez klapsa”- A world without smacking. The campaign is supported by the Ministry of Social Policy and will be launched in Spring with a conference for journalists, policy makers and so called “campaign ambassadors”- the latter referring to professionals working with parents and children at local level. The campaign also includes a series of TV and radio spots and information materials and brochures for parents, including on positiv parenting.
FND is also further building and developing their programme “Good Parent – Good Start”, whose aim is the promotion of positive parenthood approaches among parents of young children and amongst professionals. The initiative is the first of its kind in Poland and supports parents and professionals through the dissemination of educational material and the organization of workshops, educational meetings, individual consultations etc. “Good parent – Good Start” has established itself so far in a number of Warsaw districts and is accessible to all through the programmes’ website www.dobryrodzic.pl.
Children's Rights into the German Constitution?
In 2007, a series of shocking cases of child abuse and neglect triggered anew a public debate in Germany on the need to strengthen children’s’ rights. A coalition of leading child protection and children’s rights organisations formed, calling for the inclusion of children’s rights into the German constitution (http://www.kinderrechte-ins-grundgesetz.de). Within a year more than 25000 signatories made up of civil society organisations as well as individuals have signed the call (as of December 2008).
In the light of the debate and of a pending decision by the Upper House of the German parliament (Bundesrat) on a constitutional amendment, ANE organised a panel discussion to allow parents, professionals and the general public to gain further insight into and pose questions on, the pros and cons of changing the constitution.
The current wording of the German constitution doesn’t grant children an independent subject status but refers to children only in relation to parents’ rights and responsibilities. The coalition and its supporters want an additional clause that addresses children’s rights to protection, promotion and participation within German society (the three constituting pillars of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child).
The panel discussion focused on the following questions: Do we need a constitutional amendment to strengthen children’s rights? Would this lead to a curtailment of parents’ rights? And how far would society as a whole benefit? As speakers on the panel ANE invited the president of the Children’s Commission of the German parliament, a family lawyer and member of the board of UNICEF Germany and the director of the Youth Welfare Service of the city of Leipzig. Please visit the ANE website for more information and audio recording of the event (in German only).