Spanking Children Remains A Hotly-Debated Topic, With France’s New Ban And Wales’ Bill In Parliament

Spanking children has been a controversial topic for a long time, and now France has weighed in on the debate, becoming the 52nd country to ban spanking just three days before Christmas. France’s decision now puts pressure on the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy, and the Czech Republic to follow suit and pass similar laws.

The Telegraph reports, however, that the majority of French people are still in favor of meting out corporal punishment to their children.

There will be no criminal retribution for people in France who break this new law, which makes it more of a symbolic change, but the new laws are being welcomed by child protection groups who believe that spanking children is a totally counter-productive practice. According to a recent poll, 85 percent of French parents say they spank their children and 70 percent of adults are against a total ban on spanking. Besides spanking, parents must abstain from all forms of violence, including physical, verbal, and psychological. Interestingly, humiliating remarks also come under the heading of violence.

French Family Minister Laurence Rossignol welcomed the change, calling it an indispensable tool in preventing child mistreatment. However, not everyone is convinced, and MP Jean-Christophe Lagarde believes the law is “a ridiculous attempt to micromanage family life,” proving yet again that the issue of spanking will always be a very controversial one.

“Are we going to be told how to stack our plates, whether children should be made to dry up and whether they can help their parents with the chores?”

The law on spanking will now be included in family documents and read during civil wedding ceremonies.

Doctor Gilles Lazimi instigated the drive for a ban on spanking.

“This law is a very strong symbolic act to make parents understand just how all violence can be harmful for the child. Above all, it removes the notion of a threshold: there is no small or big violence. There is violence, full stop.”

The Universities of Texas and Michigan last year conducted a study on physical punishment of children, with the conclusion being that spanking can lead to lower cognitive ability, mental health problems, and the very real risk of accepting physical abuse as an accepted norm in later life.

“The more children are spanked, the more aggressive and poorly behaved they are.”

Perhaps the most interesting and surprising comment on the subject of spanking children came from Pope Francis last year. Speaking to a crowd in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said he believed parents should be free to punish their children by spanking them, providing it was not done to humiliate them. Not surprisingly, his comments drew criticism from victims of child abuse by Roman Catholic clerics.

The Sunday Express reported that France has come under fire from the United Nations and the Council of Europe in recent years for their position on violence against children.

“French law will now define parental authority and civil code as excluding all cruel, degrading, or humiliating treatment, including any recourse to corporal violence.”

The Independent reported that Wales is now considering banning parents from smacking their children. Welsh leaders will be given new powers allowing them to make alterations to parental law; if they decide to move forward with the ban, it will come into force later this year. Currently, the bill is going through parliament, and if successful, parents will no longer be able to use corporal punishment to discipline their children.

This move follows many years of controversy over spanking children, which has been publicly condemned by U.N. officials, lobby groups, and the Children’s Commissioners for Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Notably, the ban would affect millions of visitors and tourists from England and the rest of the world who holiday or work in Wales. Currently, parents have the right to smack their children, but changing the law will remove their rights for the first time in 150 years.

Of course, there will always be critics of this type of parental control, with some saying that parents who are trying to do their best for their children would feel threatened.

Sally Holland, Wales’ Children’s Commissioner, said there is no place in society for spanking. BBC News reported that Holland believes children have the right not to be hit by their parents.

Doctor Holland spoke on the Jason Mohammad program on BBC radio.

“Most of us of a certain generation, including myself, were smacked as children. What I would say is it just doesn’t have a place in modern civilized society. And I see this really as a human rights issue, because all we are trying to do is give children the same rights against being hit as adults have.”

Dr. Holland firmly believes that spanking is a human rights issue and said that Wales has been debating this issue for years. She also added that she didn’t expect many parents would be criminalized and that the bar would be set high for prosecutions where children had been harmed.

Andrew R.T. Davies is the Welsh Conservative leader, and he responded cautiously about the proposed new law.

“Personally, I’m a big believer in families having the right to bring up their children and conduct their own affairs in a manner they see fit, without being unnecessarily criminalized by the government. However, we must keep in mind the need to protect the most vulnerable members of society from violent or psychological harm.”

The head of NSPCC Wales, Des Mannion, believes Wales should fall in line with other countries who are finally passing laws for the protection of children.

“While we would never want to criminalize loving parents, the NSPCC believes smacking is not an effective way of dealing with bad behavior and the continued existence of this legal loophole flies in the face of the incredible progress made in boosting children’s rights in recent years.”

What are your thoughts? Were you spanked as a child, and do you spank your own children? Do you think the government should intervene in family matters like spanking?

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[Featured Image by Irina Zholudeva/Shutterstock]