Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Campaigning Against Corporal Punishment in Homes and Schools

I also donated $10 to the following web site: http://www.naturalchild.org. This web site provides essential information to parents on non-violent parenting techniques. The web site is on the verge of closing, and I gave them a donation and also got my best friend to give them money as well. I encourage anyone who can afford it to give $5 to this web site. I have no plans to become a parent, but as a survivor of severe emotional abuse and occasional hitting at the hands of my parents and grandmother, I am determined to campaign against corporal punishment in both home and school.

Sweden has banned parents from hitting their children since 1979. As a result, between 1980 and 1996, only one child in Sweden was murdered by their parents. http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/pages/pdfs/GenerationwithoutSmacking.pdf  By contrast, in the USA, where all states allow parents to hit their children, every day 4 children are murdered by their parents. ¾ of the murdered children are under 4 years old. I did not realize just how violent the USA is as a society until I found out the deadly consequences of allowing parents to hit their children. The Swedish example surely shows that banning parents from hitting their children saves the lives of children, and that American society has a callous attitude toward children. By refusing to ban corporal punishment in the home, American society is effectively condemning nearly 1,500 children per year to death. Thus, banning corporal punishment in the USA could save the lives of 1,500 kids per year. Yet American society continues to allow corporal punishment in the home because we don’t care about the safety of our children. Prior to seeing the report which indicated that only one Swedish child was murdered by a parent in 17 years, I considered the constant appalling news reports about children murdered by their parents in the USA to be inevitable. Now I recognize that these deaths are needless and preventable.

Hitting children is wrong because it only fosters additional violence in their hearts and minds. I realized that the hitting of children is the source of much of the violence in American society, including domestic violence and rape. I wonder how a girl is supposed to learn that their boyfriend or husband is not allowed to hit her, if she grows up knowing that her mom, dad, and teacher can hit her. I also wonder how boys are supposed to learn that they can’t hit their girlfriend or wife, if their mom, dad, and teacher can hit them when they are a child. Hitting children is about the naked exercise of adult power over children, not about discipline. I know just how humiliated and angry I felt every time my parents hit me when I was a child, and this is why I think it is wrong for parents to hit their children. And think about the fact that you can hit a child but not an animal. So apparently dogs and cats have more rights in the USA than children.

In 2010 and 2011, Tunisia, Kenya, and South Sudan banned parents and schools from hitting children. Meanwhile 21 states in the USA still allow schools to hit children, including Florida and most Southern and Western states. Isn’t it so nice to know that children now have more rights in Tunisia, Kenya, and South Sudan than in the USA? Corporal punishment is now banned in Israel and New Zealand. Two Latin American countries also banned it in recent years: Costa Rica and Uruguay. It is also banned in all 4 Scandanavian countries and many Western European countries including Iceland, Austria, Germany, Luxemburg, Holland, Spain, Greece, and Portugal. Many countries in Eastern Europe have recently banned corporal punishment as well, including Romania, Bulgaria, and Poland. Three former Soviet republics have also banned all forms of corporal punishment: Latvia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Thus, having gained much support in Western Europe, the movement against corporal punishment is now slowly spreading to Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union. It is now banned in one Arab Muslim country (Tunisia) and two countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (Kenya and South Sudan). In addition, a major campaign by the churches in South Africa is now being mounted against corporal punishment in the home, which leads me to believe that a ban on corporal punishment in the home could occur in South Africa within the next five years.

Some of these countries are actually child-friendly. For instance, according to a 2007 survey, only 30% of Austrian parents now use corporal punishment, which implies that 70% of Austrian children are now growing up in freedom. Also 86% of Austrian parents believe they should use hitting as little as possible and 89% of Austrian parents think that non-violent child-rearing is the ideal.

Similarly, the use of corporal punishment in the home has dramatically dropped in Denmark in recent years. In 2000, 12% of parents hit their 3 year olds, compared to 40% of parents who hit their 9-12 year old children in 1968. Thus, far fewer parents in Denmark are hitting their children today than a generation ago.

However, the cases of Finland and Sweden illustrate the fact that merely banning corporal punishment in the home is not enough to prevent parents from using it. It seems that it takes a generation after the passage of the law protecting children for social attitudes to catch up with the law. In Finland, the law banning parents from hitting their children passed in 1983. Yet in 1988, five years after the law was passed, ¼ of all children aged 12-15 were smacked, and 1/3 were whipped. So in 1988, 58% of Finnish children were either smacked or whipped by their parents. But twenty years later, in 2008, the percentage of kids who were hit or whipped by their parents dropped from 58% in 1988 to 10% in 2008. So now, 25 years after the law ending corporal punishment in Finland passed, 90% of Finnish children are actually growing up in freedom.

Sweden was the first country in the world to ban corporal punishment in the home, in 1979. I often fantasize about how I would have loved to grow up as a child in Sweden, because I was born in 1975, and I was four years old when this law was passed. My parents didn’t start hitting me until I was 5 or 6, and they continued hitting me until I was 8 ¾ years old. The last time they tried to hit me on a regular basis occurred when I was almost nine years old. By then I was strong enough to resist them, so they stopped hitting me. They hit me severely once more with a belt when I was 12 or 13 years old, and many years later my mom apologized to me for her role in this incident.

Smilarly, in Sweden, the proportion of parents who favor corporal punishment fell from 50% in 1960 to 10% in 2009. In addition, the proportion of pre-schoolers who were smacked has fallen from 90% in 1960 to 10% in 2009 in Sweden. In addition, the proportion of parents who hit their children in Sweden fell from over 90% in the 1960’s to 50% in the 1970’s. By the 1980’s, just 35% of parents in Sweden hit their kids, and this number fell to 20% in the 1990’s and 10% in the 2000s. The most dramatic change occurred from the 1960’s to the 1970’s, but it took really two generations to change parenting in Sweden for the better. This data comes from page 17 of the 2009 report “Never Violence.”

The Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs along with Save the Children Sweden released a report, Never Violence, in 2009 to mark 30 years of banning corporal punishment in the home in Sweden. http://sca.savethechildren.se/Documents/Resources/never%20violence.pdf.  The report includes the following observations on page 5:

“Violence against children is a reflection of family breakdown and calls for the protection of the life, well-being and dignity of the child. This is a major reason why the prevention of domestic violence against children is nowadays recognised as a human rights concern….The line should simply be drawn between physical or psychological violence on the one hand and non-violence on the other.”

I strongly applaud the Swedish attitude toward child abuse, which correctly recognizes all forms of hitting children as “domestic violence against children.” I agree with the Swedish view that the rights of children not to be hit or brutalized by their parents is a ‘human rights concern.” The American practice of encouraging parents to hit their children, including with implements such as a belt, as long as they do not cause serious physical injury to the child is frankly an appalling travesty to me. In the USA, parents are frankly encouraged to hit their children, and even beating children with a belt or other object is not seen as child abuse.

The Swedish report continues with the following observation on page 6:

“It is extraordinary that children, whose developmental state and small size is acknowledged to make them particularly vulnerable to physical and psychological harm, have been singled out for less protection from assaults on their fragile bodies, minds and dignity.”

Reflecting on this passage, I cannot help but feel outraged to recognize that essentially children in America have no rights at all. Children are the only people who have no protection against assault at the hands of their parents, and unfortunately American society seems to like it that way. The Swedish report goes on to state that American society is similar to many other countries which have banned hitting children in schools but continue to allow parents to hit their children in the home. Thus, on page 11, it states that 40% of school children world wide are not hit in classrooms, but just 2-3% of children worldwide are growing up in true freedom and dignity in countries where their parents are not allowed to hit them in the home.

The Swedish law passed in 1979 is explained as follows:

“Children are entitled to care, security and a good upbringing. Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subjected to corporal punishment or any other humiliating treatment.”

My experience shows that it is not possible to use legislation alone to force parents to give their children a good upbringing. If you have parents who themselves received an abusive childhood and who have neither the capacity nor the desire to give their children a good upbringing, then the child is not going to receive a loving upbringing. I like the statement that children are to receive “respect for their person and individuality.” I never received any respect as a human being from my parents, not as a child or nor as an adult. And corporal punishment is recognized as just one form of ‘humiliating treatment.’ I could probably write a book just describing all the deliberate, calculated humiliation that I suffered as a child.

Unfortunately, corporal punishment in the home is still allowed in many industrialized Western countries, including all four major English-speaking countries (the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia), France, and Belgium. Italy’s Supreme Court ruled against corporal punishment in the home, but this ruling has not yet been codified by the Italian parliament. I suspect that the USA will be one of the last industrialized countries to end corporal punishment in the home, and that Florida will be one of the last five states in the USA, behind maybe only Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas, to ban corporal punishment in the home. Another noteworthy fact is that not one of the major Asian democracies, such as Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, has banned corporal punishment in the home. I think that it would be pointless to even put legislation to the U.S. Congress on banning corporal punishment in the home because it has no chance of passing. A better strategy would be trying to ban corporal punishment in the home in more liberal states. I would try New England states like MA, RI, and ME; Mid-Western states like IL, MI, MN, and WI; and possibly CA and NY.


No comments: