Chancellor of Justice’s public address to the Minister of Social Affairs on prohibition of corporal punishment of the child

 

Honourable Minister of Social Affairs,

Estonia has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has according to the Article 19 committed to take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse. Also the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has emphasized the importance of prohibiting corporal punishment of the child at home, school and in other institutions.

Corporal punishment of children violates the fundamental principles of human rights - the right to physical integrity and human dignity. Protection of human rights is one of the pillars of a democratic society. The necessary elements of an offense of physical abuse enacted in the Penal Code and prohibition to implement raising measures that are degrading or causing distress or physical harm to the child enacted in the Child Protection Act and the Family Law Act, have not been sufficient to change societal attitudes towards corporal punishment of the child. As the Ombudsman for Children, I believe that the society should be totally intransigent towards violence against children, including corporal punishment. Also so-called "lenient" corporal punishment methods such as tweaking or slapping expose pain and humiliation to the child, and violate the child's right to physical integrity and human dignity. We do not accept violence in relations between adults, thus, we should not accept violence in relations between adults and children.

In order to ensure the child's right to protection from violence and purposing the violence-free society, I consider it very important to amend the Child Protection Act in the way that it forbids all forms of violence against children, including explicitly corporal punishment of the child.

The need for prohibiting corporal punishment of the child in Estonia has been also highlighted by both domestic and international organizations. For instance, Estonia has been criticized by the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child as well as the Council of Europe Committee of Social Rights for the lack of regulations on the matter.

I have a pleasure to recognize that the majority of Estonian parents do not support corporal punishment of children. The results of the Rights of the Child and Parenting Monitoring 2012 indicated that 2/3 of parents do not agree at all or rather do not agree with the allegation that corporal punishment of children in certain situations is a necessary and legitimate tool for education. Also children themselves do not support corporal punishment. However, since 1/3 of parents considered corporal punishment of children in certain situations understandable, there is still a lot to do influencing the values of society towards child-friendliness. For example, in Finland only 1/10 of parents support the corporal punishment of children. The Nordic experience shows that an explicit prohibition of corporal punishment of the child in the law increases overall social condemnation of corporal punishment of children.

In addition to the explicit prohibition of corporal punishment in the law, I find it necessary to provide greater state and local governments’ as well as schools’ and other specialists’ support to the families and parents to raise children without violence. The aim of the prohibiting corporal punishment of the child is not to prosecute more and more parents who have difficulties in raising their children, but changing society's attitudes by providing professional education on the subject matter to parents, teachers and all other members of society and making the information about the effective non-violent educational methods more accessible.

Therefore, I am acknowledging and favoring the activities enhancing parenthood supporting measures and promoting children’s rights settled in the Children and Families Development Plan 2012-2020 and its implementation plan approved by the Government of the Republic. I also recognize Yours’ and the Government’s work in the field so far and consider extremely important the implementation of the development plan. As the Ombudsman for Children I am going to do everything possible to raise the children’s and parents' awareness of children's rights, including the right to violence-free educational methods.

State’s task is to support parents as child’s primary supporters, educators and observers of needs as well as to protect children against violent education. Formulating these principles and values, the state gives a clear message to both children and adults that the child is a valued member of society, whose human rights are protected, and who has the right to violence-free education. Thereby, the support of human rights awareness and parental skills are crucial. Violence-free society is possible only if today's children and tomorrow's parents are growing up without violence. Explicit prohibition of corporal punishment of children embodies these principles.

Sincerely yours,

Indrek Teder

 

The following organizations and institutions have joined the above statement:

Estonian Bar Association
Estonian Union of Employees of Substitute Homes
Estonian Union of Guides
Estonian Association of School Psychologists
Estonian Association of Children’s and Youth’s Social Welfare Institutions
Estonian Union of Kindergarten Employees
Estonian Union of Families with Many Children
Estonian Union of Parents
Estonian National Youth Council
Estonian Society of Family Doctors
Estonian Association of Family Therapy
Estonian Association of Psychiatrists child psychiatry section
Estonian Scout Association
Estonian Social Work Association (ESTA)
Estonian School Students Councils’ Union
Institute for Human Rights
Girls’ Corps of the Estonian Defence League
NGO Estonian Social Educators’ Association
NGO Family for Every Child
NGO Union for Child Welfare
NGO Youth Assistance Centre “Carpe Diem”
NGO Omapere
NGO Advisory Centre for Families and Children
NGO Association of Family Education “You and Me”
Tallinn Children's Hospital
Estonian SOS Children’s Villages Association
Tallinn and Harju County Families Association
Tallinn Children's Support Centre
Tallinn Family Centre
Tartu Children's Shelter
Estonian National Committee for UNICEF
 

The statement is sent to the attention of:

Riigikogu
Minister of Justice
Minister of the Interior
Minister of Education and Research