27 May 2015

COMMISSIONER for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, said Northern Ireland’s children must be given the same protection as their counterparts across Europe.

The Commissioner’s comments come after the finding by the European Committee of Social Rights that the Republic of Ireland violated the European Social Charter by not banning all corporal punishment of children, including hitting at home.

“Even though this ruling does not apply to NI, this is a fundamental children’s rights and protection issue and I welcome this finding.

“The UN Committee on the Rights of the child has repeatedly called on the UK government to end all violence against children, including hitting at home.

“Along with the other UK Commissioners, I continue to express my deep concern to the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding the UK Government’s position on the physical punishment of children.

“These Committees are in place to make sure that governments meet the minimum standards to protect people in their jurisdictions and it is important that our government implements their recommendations”

“The UK is one of the few European countries that does not ban physical punishment in every aspect of a child's life. Children in Northern Ireland deserve the same protection as children living only a few miles away and as adults all over the world.

“Children have informed NICCY how painful and degrading smacking can be and parents have described how upset they are with themselves after hitting their child.

“Governments must provide support and guidance for parents to help them to discipline their child in a more positive way, to ensure parents can undertake their role more effectively.

“While a defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ for violence against children continues to exist in our law, we are neglecting our duty to fully protect children and in turn improve family life.

“I call on the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK Government to outlaw all forms of violent punishment against children.”

Notes to Editors

  • Media interviews on request with Koulla Yiasouma, Commissioner for Children and Young People
  • Please contact Patrice Morris, Communications and Engagement Officer, NICCY on 07917 544 177 or email communications@niccy.org.
  • The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People was established in 2003 by the Assembly and Parliament to: “safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young people”.

The European Social Charter

  • The European Social Charter prohibits all corporal punishment and other "cruel or degrading forms of punishment of children”
  • The UK Government signed and ratified the European Social Charter in 1962, it has not taken steps to ratify the Amending Protocol or the Revised Charter, where further clarifies the protections required.
  • The European Committee holds that the revised definition should apply to the original article which the UK did ratify and that existing defenses of ‘reasonable chastisement’ is not in conformity with the Charter as not all forms of corporal punishment are explicitly prohibited in the home.”