AMSTERDAM -- Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner wants to change the law to prevent parents from smacking their children.
Donner ruled out making corporal punishment by parents a criminal offence. Instead he plans to alter the civil code, which among other things governs the exercise of parental authority.
Under his plan, parents who are continually violent to their children could lose the right of guardianship and be barred from the family home.
To try to criminalise slapping by parents would be to "over-estimate the power of the criminal law", he said.
Donner told newspaper Trouw on Friday that he would present a legislative proposal on the issue to the Coalition cabinet in a few months.
Although attitudes to the corporal punishment of children has changed over the years, many Dutch parents, he said, still think it is acceptable to "twist the ear" to get a child to behave. Donner said parents would hopefully think differently if the law stated parents and other carers must not strike a child.
"Bystanders will feel freer to comment when they see a parent slapping a child, and parents who are otherwise inclined to often hit their children will be helped not to if they fear losing their parental authority," the minister said.
The government had to "give a signal" on this issue, Donner said, because of the high rates of child abuse in the country. He said many parents restrict themselves to an occasional slap, but many others did not seem to know where the border was.
About 8,000 children are believed to suffer from physical mistreatment annually.
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