In a recent development, the Ministry of Justice in the Czech Republic has proposed prohibiting any form of corporal punishment of children as part of an amendment to the Civil Code. While there are no sanctions for parents who violate this ban as long as no harm or injury is caused to the child, the aim of this legislative change is not to criminalize or stigmatize parents and caregivers but rather to promote alternative means of discipline other than physical punishment, according to Deputy Minister of Justice Antonín Stanislav.
The existing Civil Code considers “reasonable corporal punishment” as an acceptable disciplinary measure. However, this perspective contradicts European legislation, the European Court of Human Rights case law, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which all deem any form of physical punishment as “incompatible with human dignity.”
The proposed amendment seeks to revise the current wording to ensure that disciplinary measures are used in a manner that is proportionate to the circumstances, does not jeopardize the child’s health or development, and does not infringe upon the child’s human dignity. The amendment also emphasizes that parental responsibility includes obligations and rights related to the child’s care, encompassing their physical, emotional, intellectual, and moral development, without resorting to physical punishment, mental suffering, or other degrading measures.
This move by the Ministry of Justice aligns the Czech Republic with other European countries that have already enacted legislation to explicitly prohibit and reject all forms of physical punishment of children. It is worth noting that the Czech Republic, along with Slovakia, Belgium, and Italy, currently lacks clear legal provisions regarding the prohibition and unacceptability of corporal punishment of children, although the Czech Republic has been urged to make this change by the European Committee of Social Rights and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that physical punishment has no long-term positive effects and can instead pose various risks to individuals who have experienced it during childhood. These risks include psychological issues, low self-esteem, and a higher likelihood of aggressive behavior within close relationships. Moreover, physical punishment fails to nurture children effectively and only yields short-term results while teaching them to accept physical violence as a problem-solving method.
The proposed amendment, if implemented, has the potential to bring about a significant shift in Czech society by reducing the levels of violence and aggression. The Ministry of Justice believes that declaring the unacceptability of physical punishment would contribute to this positive change. The proposal has already been sent for interdepartmental review and consultation.
It is crucial to recognize that promoting alternative methods of discipline that respect children’s human rights and dignity is essential for their overall well-being and development. By outlawing corporal punishment, the Czech Republic can take a significant step towards creating a safer and more nurturing environment for its children.