NORWAY: Plan to ban corporal punishment once and for all

The Norwegian government has drafted a new law to quash uncertaintly over a ban on corporal punishment introduced more than 20 years ago.

In 1987, an ammendment to the Parent and Child Act read: "The child shall not be exposed to physical violence or to treatment which can threaten his physical or mental health."

But in 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that lighter smacks were permitted under the law.

The government is now planning to introduce new legislation, that will clear up the issue once and for all, before Christmas.

”It needs to be crystal clear that children have the same legal protection as adults in Norway. Parents also need to know that they do not have any punishment rights. Just as it is wrong to smack an adult, it is also wrong to smack a child,” said State Secretary Astri Aas-Hansen of the Ministry of Justice.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has consistently emphasised that State endorsement of corporal punishment is in violation of their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Aas-Hansen added that: "Norway has to meet international demands to do with the legal security of children, and the phrasing is unarguable. It will no longer be possible to interpret the law such that children can be smacked."

Norway's Ombudsman for Children welcomed the developments.

"We are very pleased with the work that now is going on aimed at eliminating the last doubt on the question of corporal punishment in Norway. Hopefully this new law will be in place before Christmas and Norway can again join the ranks of countries that without any doubts have banned all forms of violence to children," a statement issued by Knut Haanes, Deputy Ombudsman, read.

Islamic support

Violence towards immigrant children in Norway has caused particular concern among civil society. New research has shown that the risk of being exposed to grave domestic violence is much higher among children with an immigrant background than in families from the majority population.

The new research prompted the Islamic Council of Norway to come out against the practice of corporal punishment, stating clearly that violence should never be used as part of child rearing.

Mr Haanes said said the Ombudsman's office was encouraged by the announcment.

He added: "[Greater violence towards immigrant children] is partly due to cultural factors and partly to socioeconomic factors. All forms of violence to children is of course unacceptable. It is of course a continuous challenge to get this message across to all parents, no matter what ethnic or cultural background."

[Sources: Aftenbladet, Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, CRIN]

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