Czech government moves to ban corporal punishment of children

The Czech government has approved a proposed amendment that would outlaw corporal punishment of children. Czechia is one of the last EU member states to adopt such a regulation and while there will be no sanctions for breaking it, child experts hope it will change age-old habits.

According to the results of an SC&C survey the number of Czech parents who regularly use corporal  punishment in bringing up their children has dropped to around 4 percent, which is significantly less than in the past. However, there are those who still firmly believe that “to spare the rod is to spoil the child”. Kristyna, a mother of two, recalls how slapping her first-born was normal when she was under pressure.

" When my son was two, I would slap his hands, when he was three, I would smack him on the bottom. I knew it was wrong. At night, when he was sleeping, I felt regret. Also it didn't lead anywhere, there was no change for the better."

Kristýna says it took a lot of time and effort for her to gain control and stop doing it altogether. She got a lot of support from the NGO Nevýchova and the videos of the “Children Are People Too” project.

Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková | Photo: Alžběta Boháčová,  Czech Radio

Extreme or degrading physical punishment of children is already banned by the law, but so-called “moderate” physical punishment is not.  The government’s human rights commissioner, Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, argues that the law needs to go all the way for people’s behaviour to change.

“The interpretation of what is or is not “moderate” is entirely subjective. Violent behaviour is often carried over from one generation to the next. For someone who was frequently physically punished as a child, beating or slapping their child three times a week seems perfectly normal. But that doesn't mean that it's safe for the child and that it doesn't negatively affect their mental health and psycho-social development.”

Laurenčíková says that countries that have banned physical punishment and other degrading treatment of children in their legislation have seen a gradual decline in violence within families, as well as a decline in aggression in children's groups.

Illustrative photo: Victoria Borodinowa,  Pexels

“This is an important message for society as a whole and for adults who are either raising their own children or looking after them within their profession. In cases of really serious physical punishment, bordering on abuse, the children themselves do not realize that what is happening to them is wrong and that they should seek help, that they have a right to be treated with dignity and to feel safe.”

Kristyna says that in her view the proposed amendment to the Civil Code is as important for adults as it is for children because often they perpetuate the habits of previous generations. Her own extended family, she says is a case in point.

"When I was an unbalanced, ignorant mom ready to smack her child at any time, I was normal. Now, when I try to respect my children, communicate with them and try to improve myself, I am misunderstood and criticized".

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Petr Král , Michaela Sladká | Source: Český rozhlas
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