If you reached out and slapped another adult, you could be prosecuted and yet in many countries, Including Australia, you can do the same thing to a child with impunity.
International studies suggest approximately four out of every five children between the ages of two and fourteen are subjected to corporal punishment in the home.
It has long been an accepted form of discipline.
UTS Law academic, Patrick Lenta has researched the use of corporal punishment and looked at the justification of the practice on both legal and ethical grounds.
He defines corporal punishment as:
The deliberate exercise by parents or teachers of physical force on children’s bodies in a way calculated to inflict pain for the purposes of discipline or correction.
Associate Professor Lenta looks at the rationale for the use of this physical force and explores the argument that corporal punishment is effective in deterring aberrant behaviour in children and teaching them the correct way to behave; and that it is more effective than any other form of discipline.
He concludes that there is no justification for a practice which effectively legitimises the use of violence to solve problems.
All corporal punishment violates children’s moral rights to bodily security and to protection against degrading punishment; it poses some risk of psychological harm to them; it is liable to escalate into abuse and it encourages resort to violence.
It is already against the law in more than 50 countries including our nearest neighbour, New Zealand and in 2012, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended all corporal punishment be banned in Australia.
Associate Professor Lenta believes there is a fine line between physical punishment and what would be defined as abuse and the risk of crossing that line is too great to allow the practice of corporal punishment to continue anywhere.
All corporal punishment is seriously morally wrong and the practice ought to be criminalised.
If you are interested in undertaking research on this topic, take a look at our postgraduate law research degrees.