Legislating to Prohibit Parental Physical Punishment of Children

This report explores what might be learnt from countries which have introduced legislation to prohibit parental physical punishment of children. Based on a review of the legislation of, and accompanying research on, relevant jurisdictions, it seeks to identify the factors to be considered when reform proposals are being developed.

As of 1 May 2018, 53 countries have made the physical punishment of children unlawful. Some countries have abolished the defence of reasonable punishment in their criminal law. Other countries, some of which had first abolished the defence of reasonable punishment, have incorporated into their Civil Codes laws which explicitly prohibit the physical punishment of children by parents. Other countries are considering reform.

The available evidence supports the view that legislating on physical punishment can contribute to changes in both the attitudes towards, and the use of, physical punishment but that sustained information campaigns and support to parents are also needed for legislation to be effective.