While convincing arguments can be put forward by the advocates of abolishment of CP and those who are not, it is submitted that at the end of the day, it may not be practical for international human rights law to prohibit the use of CP on children in any context.
The major obstacle would be one of culture and religion. It must be accepted that in certain parts of the world today, CP on children is not only accepted but commended.
To a lot of people, abolishing CP on children would go against their religious beliefs. To others, it will culturally unacceptable.
Even in the United Kingdom, a cursory look at the BBC’s website referred to above(22) would show that even in this country, there is no unanimous consensus. In the recent government’s respect agenda, both sides were quick to blame the other side for the anti-social problems which have arisen recently – those who are for CP alleged that the rise of anti-social behaviour is a result of the abolishment of CP in schools while those who are against the CP alleged that such behaviour is a respond of those who had been beaten when they were a child.
Therefore it will be not only controversial but difficult for any international law to take such a hard stand. Cultural practices may change but religious beliefs will generally remain the same.
Even with such laws in place, there is no guarantee that abuse of children would end. It is interesting to note that the Children’s Committee’s comments on Finland when it state that although Finland “…was the second state in the world to prohibit all corporal punishment of children…, the committee is concerned at the number of cases of violence against children…(23)”.
Therefore, it is submitted that one must accept that CP on children will be carried out and international human rights law as well as domestic laws must work to prevent it from amounting to abuse and/or inhuman and degrading treatment.
Just like in the controversy over the beginning of childhood – whether it is at the point of birth or at the point of conception or any other point in between that – the international laws should leave it to individual states to rule on that matter.
In the meantime, a close eye should be kept on the states which have abolished CP on children completely as these states could be used in the future as an example and make a persuasive argument for the advocates of abolishment. Just like the efforts made in Sweden before the laws to abolish CP was passed, efforts should be made now to educate people from all over the world on alternative methods of disciplining and to promote such methods. Perhaps with the implementation of such methods, parents will find there not to be any need to resort to CP when disciplining their child.
(22) See note 1
(23) Finland 2RCO, Add.132, paras 39