ISPCC and Children’s Rights Alliance welcome an historic legal amendment to protect children from corporal punishment
Today, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Children’s Rights Alliance have warmly welcomed an amendment to the Children First Bill 2014 which will see the removal of the defence of reasonable chastisement from the common law. This change means that if a parent or carer is charged with assault or child cruelty, they cannot claim in defence that they were only inflicting ‘reasonable chastisement’ in disciplining their child.
Both children’s organisations have long campaigned to see the removal of this defence to ensure that children have equal protection and rights under the law. It sends a strong message, echoing the result of the 2012 Children’s Referendum that we, as a society, value children and that they must be treated equally before the law. You cannot hit an adult in Ireland. The law should be no different for children. To date, 46 countries in the world have prohibited the corporal punishment of children, including 19 countries in the EU. It is long overdue that Ireland joins them.
Grainia Long, ISPCC Chief Executive said “We know from engaging with children on a daily basis through our Childline service that physical abuse is a pervasive and ongoing issue in the lives of some. By allowing this defence to continue society was saying that it is okay to harm a child. This amendment to legislation is a statement of intent and we welcome it wholeheartedly.”
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of Children’s Rights Alliance said, “Today’s change is a giant leap forward in protecting our children. We know that corporal punishment causes harm to children and it’s ineffective in disciplining them. Children have a right to be protected from all forms of violence and this change now makes them equal before the law.
Up to now, Ireland has been lagging way behind its European counterparts. Yet, we know from the experience of other countries that introducing a law is a tool for change – thankfully, Ireland is now on a journey towards fully shifting public attitudes.”
In 2014, both children’s organisations jointly published the results of a survey on child discipline which showed that almost three quarters of respondents did not think that slapping was an effective way to discipline a child, while two thirds believed that there is not enough information available to parents relating to alternative methods of discipline.[i]
Ms Long said “Being a parent is rewarding however, it can be challenging. We see from the children and families we work with around the country that often a lack of support and education can leave parents feeling they have no other option in disciplining their children. The ISPCC believes that comprehensive, quality support and education of parents is essential in actively discouraging slapping and promoting positive, non-violent forms of discipline. This amendment serves the purpose of removing slapping as an option for parents and we hope will steer and support parents to find alternative disciplinary methods”
The Government must now seize the opportunity to underpin this legislation and introduce the necessary parenting support systems that lay down a clear standard for the way society aspires to treat its children.
Both the ISPCC and Children’s Rights Alliance would like to thank Senator Jillian van Turnhout for her commitment to children and her tireless pursuit of their rights.
For further details please contact:
ISPCC Communications Department
094 90 25254
Children’s Rights Alliance
ISPCC Chief Executive
085 804 2741
Communications & Development Manager
087 655 9067
ISPCC Head of Advocacy
087 653 1069
Notes to Editor
- Support information and advice on positive parenting and discipline is available on www.ispcc.ie/advice
- The ISPCC provides a Support Line for parents or members of the public who may be concerned about the welfare of a child and who need more information and support. Call ISPCC Head Office on 01 6767960 for more information.
- The Children’s Rights Alliance is coordinating a Civil Society Parallel Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. This will form part of the State examination of Ireland in January 2016. The issue of corporal punishment will be included in that review.