A proposal in Wales which would make it harder for parents to hit their children has inspired strenuous opposition from religious groups. First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones announced in 2016 that his Government would put forward legislation to remove the criminal defense of ‘reasonable chastisement’ for parents charged with common assault of a child. The Welsh Government is planning to put the measure to a vote in the National Assembly later this year.
The defence of reasonable chastisement has been widely criticised by international bodies for providing a significant loophole to child protection laws. Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights noted in 2008 that the defence was based on the view that children were property, and equated it with previous legal allowances for husbands to beat their wives. The UN reported in 2002 that the UK’s retention of the defence was in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and encouraged UK to do as many other democracies had done and fully criminalise child abuse.
A new campaigning group named Be Reasonable Wales, supported by the Christian Institute and the Family Education Trust, has been set up to scupper the change, which they (without irony) call an ‘assault on parenting’. The group’s website, whose branding does not make clear its links to the Christian Institute or Family Education Trust, is collecting signatures to urge the Welsh Government not to go ahead with its plans.
Wales Humanists coordinator Kathy Riddick said, ‘Wales has a golden opportunity to lead the UK in removing this outdated defence and living up to our obligations to respect the human rights of children. Expert charities like Children in Wales, Care for the Family, and Children in Need are calling for it and we support the First Minister in making it. Far from being an attack on parents, these proposals represent vital and long overdue recognition of children as people, deserving of fuller human rights.
‘The defence of reasonable chastisement was introduced by the UK Parliament in 1860, at the height of the Victorian era. Civilised societies have since moved on and parents today are more than capable of raising young people without resorting to violence.’
For further information, please contact Kathy Riddick, Wales Humanists Coordinator on 07881 625378, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
See the Crown Prosecution Service’s guidelines on ‘reasonable chastisement’ in relation to the Offences Against the Person Act: http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/l_to_o/offences_against_the_person/#correction
Wales Humanists is part of the British Humanist Association. The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.