Österreichischer Kinderschutzbund - Verein für gewaltlose Erziehung

Kinder sind unschlagbar

The background of our struggle against violence

Within Europe there are still only a few countries which have explicit laws prohibiting all physical punishment. Among these countries is Austria. We are very proud of this achievement because it had been only a few years before all forms of punishment were banned in 1989 that the Austrian Secretary for Justice created the antagonistic term of the “healthy smack" as a moderate and reasonable sanction for educating children.

According to our opinion we have to get rid of the fairy tale that there is something that can be described as a practible fine line between a “little smack" and harmful physical punishment. Never ever believe in one of those arguments trying to justify a “good spanking" provided it does children no harm.

We consider the Austrian- style which means prohibition of all corporal punishment of children a vital strategy for reducing all forms of violence and abuse. “Moderate every-day violence" even if socially accepted is no trivial issue and never has been, because it may well serve as the breeding ground for any form of violent behaviour including sexual exploitation, pornography and child abuse.

Physical punishment therefore cannot be scientifically divided into acceptable and not acceptable forms. It simply is wrong - and indeed it is not only wrong but useless and dangerous.

Our position that “using violence and inflicting physical or mental suffering is unlawful" matches completely with the UN convention. The Committee on the Rights of the children which can be considered the highest authority for interpreting the UN Convention has consistently stated that countries should implement legal reforms to end all physical punishment.

It`s as simple as that: Civilised societies have to be characterised by the absence of violence. But we know that violence and physical punishment is not an independent, isolated phenomenon - it always occurs in a socio-cultural context and is an integral part of it. We know that physical punishment is just one aspect of violence that warps a child`s personality.

It often occurs in collaboration with other kinds of violence: Humiliation, indifference, rejection, criticism, scorn, lack of love and coldness are just a few contributing to the wide range of the violence landscape. In order to make the objectives of our Association understandable we have been looking for ways to convey our arguments efficiently and to prevent the violence issue being limited to corporal punishment only.

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