There is a growing consensus worldwide to bring an end to the physical punishment of children, the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan will tell an audience in Belfast today.
The Deputy Minister will be the keynote speaker at an event organised by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People. The event is calling for legislation which will prohibit the physical punishment of children in Northern Ireland.
In her speech the Deputy Minister will highlight the work being undertaken in Wales to help protect children’s rights and will outline The Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill.
The bill is currently moving through the National Assembly for Wales’ scrutiny process and seeks to end the physical punishment of children.
The deputy minister will tell the audience made up of, members of the legal profession, Third sector organisations, human rights organisations and senior political and public figures that the proposed bill:
“Will send a clear message that physically punishing children is unacceptable in our society.
“There is a growing consensus internationally that the physical punishment of children should be prohibited by law. 54 states have already legislated for this. My hope is that Wales will soon be added to this number.”
The minister will also make it clear that the bill is not about telling parents how to parent, adding
“This is not the end of parental choice about how parents raise their children. Nor are we advocating letting children do whatever they like.
“Every child needs sensible boundaries and discipline as they grow up and providing that is part of good parenting. The bill will not stop adults caring for children, and it will not stop normal day to day interactions between parents and their children such as helping them to get dressed, brushing their teeth, or stopping them from running into danger.”
Finally she will discuss the support the bill has received from various stakeholders in Wales, commenting:
“I am delighted that many key organisations share our commitment to children’s rights. The Association of Social Workers Cymru; Welsh NHS Confederation, National Independent Safeguarding Board; Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the police; are some who have all stated that they support the principles of the bill.”
The deputy minister will also highlight how younger people in Wales are supporting the bill. Recently, through a secret ballot, The Welsh Youth Parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of the Bill.
Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission said:
“Most adults wouldn’t dream of raising their hands to strike another grown up. It is not OK for an adult who has caring responsibility for an older person to hit or smack that person. Why is it OK then for an adult with caring responsibility for a child to hit or smack them?
We welcome the visit of the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan to Northern Ireland today and the opportunity to raise awareness of this issue. Northern Ireland law still allows the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ for parents who physically punish their children. We should follow the example of Wales and ensure children should receive the same legal protection from violence as adults. We need to bring Northern Ireland law in line with human rights standards and to end the corporal punishment of children.”