The Welsh government has stepped into the global debate regarding whether it’s okay for parents to physically reprimand their children. Over the next 12 weeks, advocates and detractors of corporal punishment will make their individual cases as Wales tries to round out its’ new anti-corporal punishment legislation. Should corporal punishment be outlawed in Wales, the country would join the ranks of more than 50 others where the practice has been outlawed.
According to a report from the New York Times, the Welsh Government’s official position is that corporal punishment “is outdated and ineffective, and can have negative long-term effects.” Despite this, opposition to the prospective ban has arisen in the form of the parent advocacy group “Be Reasonable,” which insists that the government’s focus should be on strictly enforcing already existing protections against child abuse rather than “turn good parents into criminals.”
To Irranca-Davies, the Welsh minister for children and social care as well as a mother, the debate is cut and dry. If there is any chance that the type of punishment used could harm or traumatize a child, then the government shouldn’t simply have the right to step in but be actually forced to do so. While it may not seem to many like the act of physically punishing children is analogous to assault against an adult, Britain’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (N.S.P.C.C.) says quite the opposite. To it, preventing children from physical punishment is “a common-sense move, which is about fairness and equality for children.”
It’s fair to note that no one opposing the new legislation is actually in favor of anything that could be called abuse, at least not in their own eyes. While ‘Be Reasonable’, actually takes their name from the exemptions to assault laws for “reasonable” punishment of children, Angie Robins, a mother and supporter of the campaign, says a small “gentle slap” shouldn’t be any of the governments business and “never did anyone any harm.” This fits neatly into the group’s narrative that criminalizing corporal punishment across the board will create an irreconcilably slippery slope. They say that social workers and child safety professionals will be inundated with cases that will genuinely distract them from investigating more serious and ‘bonafide’ claims of abuse.
Despite a fierce international debate over the subject, the U.S. government has yet to take a particular stance for or against corporal punishment. This is despite the fact that, in 19 states, corporal punishment is still legal and used in public schools, with more than 140,00 cases reported in the 2014-15 school year. It’s not clear whether the U.S. will follow Wales’ lead moving forward. According to an ABC News poll, the number of Americans who approve of corporal punishment has remained at about 65 percent since 1990.