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Call for Stormont to ban smacking as it is an 'abuse of human rights'

By Steven Alexander

Published 28/05/2015

Call: Koulla Yiasouma
Call: Koulla Yiasouma

The Children's Commissioner has called on Stormont to ban smacking in Northern Ireland.

Koulla Yiasouma's call comes after a scathing report by the Council of Europe found the Republic was violating children's rights due to its failure to ban corporal punishment.

The European Committee of Social Rights found Ireland and Slovenia were in breach of the European Social Charter.

It said the corporal punishment of children is not prohibited in a sufficiently clear, binding and precise manner under legislation or case-law in either country.

"Violence against children, including corporal punishment, is a major abuse of their human rights," it said.

"The Council of Europe has been working to see corporal punishment of children outlawed in each of its 47 member countries, and positive parenting programmes set up by governments to encourage parents to make the family violence-free."

The Republic's Minister for Children, James Reilly, has said officials started talks with the Department of Justice to remove the defence of "reasonable chastisement".

Ms Yiasouma said that although the ruling does not apply here, children must be given the same protection as their counterparts across Europe.

"The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly called on the UK Government to end all violence against children, including hitting at home," she said.

"The UK is one of the few European countries that does not ban physical punishment in every aspect of a child's life. Children here deserve the same protection as children living only a few miles away and as adults all over the world."

Ms Yiasouma said children had told her office how painful and degrading smacking can be and parents have described how upset they are with themselves after hitting their child.

"While a defence of 'reasonable chastisement' for violence against children continues to exist in our law, we are neglecting our duty to fully protect children," she said.

"I call on the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK Government to outlaw all forms of violent punishment against children."

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