Paul Gilligan: History of abuse shows that slapping ban protects children
Our young have a right to total bodily integrity and a right not to experience violent behaviour
'Slapping Children is Wrong – Pass it On" was the slogan of an ISPCC billboard campaign in the Nineties. At the time, reaction to the campaign was ferocious with claims that its aim was to turn children against their parents and criminalise parents. Even some child-protection professionals claimed it was a step too far.
Since then, various international and national authorities, including the United Nations Convention Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Government's own Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, have called for a legal ban on corporal punishment. Yet, slapping children, when characterised as reasonable chastisement by a parent, legal care-giver, child minder or foster parent, remains legal in Ireland.
The arguments against a legal ban have not changed since the Nineties despite all of the child-abuse scandals that have emerged since then and despite the passing of a children's rights constitutional amendment last year. Many policy-makers argue that legislation is unnecessary because parenting practice is changing and fewer parents now slap their children. They also fear that introducing a legislative ban would be viewed as too draconian and an over-interference in family life, even by parents who don't condone slapping.