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Abuse or Discipline?

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Introduction

ABUSE OR DISCIPLINE? Smacking or corporal punishment, as it commonly referred to, is both a contemporary and an emotive issue. The definition of corporal punishment according to Clark (2004) is 'the infliction of physical pain on some offender for his offence' (p.363). This definition encapsulates smacking. Under current law, parents can smack their children providing no marks are left and only 'reasonable chastisement is used' (N.S.P.C.C). While the wording is contemporary, the issue is not. Chief Justice Cockburn stated in 1860, ' by the law of England, a parent... may for the purpose of correcting what is evil in the child, inflict moderate and reasonable corporal chastisement' (Roberts, 2000, p. 259). The language of the current law may be different but the underlying message remains the same. Nevertheless, varying debates have emerged recently over whether Britain should impose an outright ban on smacking. This paper endeavours to outline some of these debates and provides a considered opinion on whether smacking is abuse or discipline. In November 2004, Members of Parliament voted on a proposal to change the Children's Bill to include an outright ban on smacking. ...read more.

Middle

Indeed the current British law has been challenged in the European Courts (Taylor and Redman, 2004, p. 312). In 1998, the case of A versus United Kingdom, where a step father with a garden cane, repeatedly beat a young boy, went to court. The European Court of Human Rights stated that the British law did not adequately protect children. They found that the boy's treatment was inhuman and degrading and in breach of his human rights (Taylor and Redman, 2004, p. 312). Last year, the Scottish Executive proposed a new law banning the smacking of children under the age of 3, becoming the tenth country to do so (Taylor and Redman, 2004, p. 311). However, while the Scottish proposal is still under debate, Britain robustly refused a similar proposal. There remain many reasons why Britain is so vehemently against banning smacking, not least due to parents rejecting Government intervention and the imposition of values upon them, which they do not uphold (Taylor and Redman, 2004, p.313). The most popular argument to emerge from the 'ban smacking' camp surrounds the lack of children's rights regarding their protection from assault (Taylor and Redman, 2004, p. 314). ...read more.

Conclusion

Indeed, the Christian Independent Schools Commission recently called for the right to smack children within their schools (The Christian Institute, Scotland). There remains a fear in society that children, if given too many rights, will over- run the country! Nonetheless, if a cultural shift occurred regarding the rights of children, then children may be less likely to abuse those rights. Domestic violence can be used as an example. Previously domestic violence was tolerated, even viewed as part of marriage. It was a man's right to hit his wife. However, a cultural change has produced a society that no longer accepts this type of violence. Women are not running away with these new rights, men who have violent tendencies either seek help or go to prison. Perhaps a new era of respectability has been created regarding marriage and violence within it. Therefore, if children were given the same rights as adults with regard to protection from assault, a cultural change may be produced in the same respect as married women. Children would feel valued and on an even par regarding their human rights. Therefore, this paper concludes with an open verdict on whether smacking should be banned and whether it is abuse or discipline. ...read more.

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