UK - More than two-thirds of people would support a ban on parents smacking their children, according to a survey published today. The Mori poll for the campaigning group Children Are Unbeatable! found that 71% of respondents agreed that the law should be changed to give children the same protection from being hit as adults.
The current law allowing for "reasonable chastisement" of children dates back to 1860 and means that they have less protection from being hit than adults.
An amendment to the children bill, currently being considered by the House of Lords, was tabled yesterday by four peers to give children equal protection. It will be debated in the Lords tomorrow, and peers will vote on the issue in June. Children Are Unbeatable! is pressing for a free conscience vote on the amendment.
The campaigning group brings together more than 350 organisations including the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), Barnardo's, Save the Children, NCH and the National Children's Bureau.
The chief executive of the NSPCC, Mary Marsh, said the survey showed the public supported a "sensible and fair modernisation of the law".
She said: "The current law giving children less protection dates back to the century before last and is clearly out of step with modern family values. "In the 21st century, equal protection must be every child's right. It is vital that hitting children becomes as socially unacceptable as hitting anyone else. The least we should do is afford them equal protection, backed up by mass public education on positive parenting and greater support for parents."
Nearly a third (29%) of the 2,004 adults polled between February 26 and March 2 agreed that children should have more legal protection than adults from being hit. More than half those questioned said it was wrong for someone to hit a child in their family.
Parents, young adults under 24 and women were most likely to support law reform, the survey found.
Ten European countries already give children equal protection: Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Norway and Sweden.
In 1998 the European court of human rights ruled that UK law does not provide adequate protection for children in this respect and Council of Europe monitors are pressing ministers to act.
The European social rights committee, which monitors compliance with the European Social Charter, has called for the abolition of all corporal punishment and the UN committee on the rights of the child has twice recommended reform, most recently in October 2002.
Two years ago the Scottish Executive abandoned plans to make hitting all children under the age of three a criminal offence after an influential committee of MSPs warned that a smacking ban would be unworkable and unenforceable.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
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