Britain’s children’s commissioner’s have demanded a ban on smacking, saying that current UK laws related to the practice are in violation of international laws.
In a report to the United Nations, the four commissioners from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, said the government should teach parents who smack their children “non-violent forms” of disciplining children.
The report deals with the treatment of children in Britain and is part of a wider assessment into whether the UK is adhering to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Under current British law, parents who smack their children can argue that it is a “reasonable punishment” if they face legal action. Reasonable punishment is defined as a smack that does not leave a mark or is not done using a belt or a cane.
But children’s charities have long argued that children are entitled to the same protection against physical assault as adults.
The UN Convention, which was first signed by the UK 25 years ago, affords children a general protection against being “hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally” but how that is interpreted remains contentious.
Earlier this year Pope Francis made a surprise intervention on the subject telling a crowd in St Peter’s Square that parents should be free to smack their children as punishment as long as it was not done to humiliate them.
His comments were criticised by victims of child abuse by Roman Catholic clerics.
The children’s commissioner’s say that the government has thus far rejected any changes to existing laws.
The report states: “The state party and the devolved governments should immediately prohibit all corporal punishment in the family and in all other institutions and forms of alternative care, including through the repeal of legal defences, and actively promote positive and non-violent forms of child rearing and behaviour management.”