Is it illegal to hit your child?


Is it illegal to hit your child in Australia?

The law in Australia does not usually intervene in cases of child discipline, leaving the question of legality to parents and educators. The consensus is that smacking a child is never good but permissible when it is done with an open hand to the back or bottom. It has been estimated that half of the Australian adults were physically punished as children, which was not against the law at that time.

Generally speaking, Is it legal to hit your child?

  • United States Of America: Yes
  • Canada: Yes
  • Australia: Yes
  • New Zealand: Yes
  • United Kingdom: Yes
  • Scotland: Yes
  • Ireland: Yes
  • Germany: Yes
  • France: Yes
  • Italy: Yes
  • Sweden: Yes
  • Norway: Yes
  • Denmark: Yes

For further details, read on.

In 2004, a couple was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for aggravated assault with a weapon after using a bamboo rod and an electrical cord on their nine-year-old daughter, despite previous child protection reports stating that such treatment may indicate the long term risk of harm. The judge noted that smacking the child was legal but “[that] does not mean it is right or that it is in her best interests.”

In 2006, all Australian states and territories removed the defence of reasonable chastisement, allowing for criminal charges against parents who disciplined their children with unreasonable force.

Most Australians recognise that some degree of physical discipline towards children is necessary and it is important to note that physical discipline in the form of smacking or hitting children does not necessarily constitute child abuse.

Cyprus has strict rules for physical punishment, with no distinction made between adults and children. The law prohibits any person from inflicting corporal punishment on a minor in any form (Corporal punishment means any form of punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light) and no disciplinary measure involving the use of physical force towards children can be authorized by law.

In 2007, a report entitled “Smacking Should Not Be Acceptable” launched by UNICEF stated that all forms of physical punishment, including smacking children, are against the international conventions on human rights. The report urges countries to abolish ‘all laws that allow people to use violence – including corporal punishment – to discipline or correct children’.

The law was changed in England and Wales in 2004 so that it is now illegal for a parent or carer to smack their child, except where this amounts to ‘reasonable chastisement. The government states that the reform was intended “To send out a clear message that hitting children is wrong and will not be tolerated.” However, parents are allowed to use force to prevent harm or punish wrongdoing. Parents can still smack their children if it forms part of wider disciplinary measures governed by the favourable parenting contract.

The Code of Practice that accompanies the Children Act 2004 states that smacking may be appropriate for “reasonable chastisement,” but this must not cause an injury amounting to Actual Bodily Harm (ABH). Some parents still choose to use physical punishment, believing it to be an appropriate response to unacceptable behaviour. However, smacking remains the least effective method of discipline. There are still calls for corporal punishment by some parents and politicians to be decriminalized, but this would lower the age at which physical force could be used on children.

Hitting your child is legal in;

  • Queensland
  • New South Wales
  • Victoria
  • Australian Capital Territory
  • Tasmania
  • South Australia
  • Western Australia
  • Northern Territory
Is it legal to hit your child in Australia?

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