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Child Protection or Child Liberation? Reflections on the Movement to Ban Physical Punishment by Parents and Educators

NCJ Number
International Journal of Victimology Volume: 12 Issue: 2 Dated: 2005 Pages: 159-187
Leslie Sebba
Date Published
29 pages
This article traces the historical development of the abolitionist movement to ban physical or corporal punishment of children on the international plane and identify the ideologies which have motivated the movement.
Since the introduction of a prohibition on the infliction of physical punishment in Sweden in 1979, an active movement has developed worldwide to achieve a universal ban on the use of force against children for either educational (educators) or disciplinary purposes (parents). This article attempts to identify the historical developments, both on the conceptual-ideological and on the normative levels, which have given rise to the worldwide movement for the delegitimization of the physical punishment of children, to the adoption of a new discourse favorable to this objective, and to the increasing readiness to view the smacking of a child as a criminal assault or battery. The article supports the view that child protection policies, in tandem with an ideology of children’s autonomy rights, provide the optimal basis for the promotion of new policies beneficial to children. Appendix and references