Welsh Government plans to criminalise parents for smacking their own children have failed to win clear support in a consultation, prompting campaigners to call for a change in approach.
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones wants to make it a criminal offence for parents to use ‘reasonable chastisement’ – which could even include picking up a misbehaving child.
Campaign group Be Reasonable Wales said it was “extremely worrying” that the Government seems set on pressing ahead anyway, and stressed: “Politicians should not set out to demonise parents”.
Results from the consultation revealed significant opposition. Indeed, among those who answered a question asking for general comments, two-thirds opposed changing the law.
Respondents were also concerned about “law abiding and caring parents” who use “reasonable” methods being stigmatised.
One wrote: “Your proposal will have the effect of treating ordinary loving parents like real abusers and cause unnecessary anxiety for their children”.
Nearly 2,000 people responded to the four-month consultation, with one saying “reasonable physical discipline is a valid and time-tested” way of teaching children boundaries.
“This proposal has the potential to set child against parent and neighbour against neighbour, resulting in a further fragmentation of our already fragmented society”, another said.
Answering the specific question of whether the Government’s plans “will help achieve our stated aim of protecting children’s rights”, respondents were split.
Commenting on the consultation responses, Be Reasonable criticised the Government’s actions as lacking common sense.
“The consultation shows a huge amount of opposition to a smacking ban, and that’s even without it asking the most important question of all – ‘should parental smacking be a criminal offence?’ When we asked that question 76% said no.”
Speaking for the campaign, Lowri Turner said: “We have already seen the First Minister confirm at a public meeting that he smacked his own children and it did them no harm, yet he seems to want to criminalise parents for acting in the same way.”
She concluded, “banning smacking is just more politically-correct-driven nonsense. This is why an overwhelming majority of countries around the world allow reasonable chastisement.”