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Report updated February 2008

Lawfulness of corporal punishment

Home

Corporal punishment is prohibited in the home. Section 146a of the General Civil Code (1989) states: “The minor child must follow the parents’ orders. In their orders and in the implementation thereof, parents must consider the age, development and personality of the child; the use of force and infliction of physical or psychological suffering are not permitted.” The defence of “reasonable” punishment was removed from the law on assault in 1977. The Act on Protection from Domestic Violence (1997, amended 2003) allows a man or woman committing violence to be removed from the home.

Parents violating the ban may be prosecuted under the Penal Code, which provides for punishment for anyone “who physically injures another or harms his health” or “who physically abuses another and negligently injures him as a result or harms his health” (section 83), and for anyone “who inflicts physical or psychological torment on another, who is under his care or custody and who has not yet completed his 18th year” or “who grossly neglects his duty of custody or care for such a person and as a result, even when also only negligent, considerably harms his health or his physical or mental development” (section 92). Prosecution tends to happen only when corporal punishment is serious, and enforcement of the ban is primarily through education and social services support to families. Minor violations are taken into account when assessing the legal relationship between children and parents.

Schools

Corporal punishment was banned in all schools in 1974. Section 47.3 of the School Education Act states: “In order to maintain discipline in schools, teachers may not have recourse to means that would injure the human dignity of pupils, such as corporal punishment or insulting remarks or collective punishments.”

Penal system

Corporal punishment was abolished as a sentence for crime by 1867.

Corporal punishment is unlawful as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions. Article 1 of the Federal constitutional law (1988, in force 1991) on the protection of personal liberty states: “(4) Whoever is arrested or detained shall be treated with respect for human dignity....”

Alternative care

Corporal punishment is prohibited in other institutions and forms of care.

Workplace

Corporal punishment is prohibited. The Vocational Training Act (1969, amended 2003) governs the relationship between apprentice and trainer and includes a prohibition of corporal punishment and a duty to protect from corporal punishment or abusive remarks by other persons. The Act on Employment in Agriculture was amended in 2002 to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment. The Act on Domestic Helpers and Domestic Employees (1962, amended 2002) contains general provisions regarding the young person’s health and a general duty to care for the adolescent.

Prevalence research

A survey in 1991-2 commissioned by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Youth and the Family, found that 28.5% of mothers and 26% of fathers occasionally resorted to violence in bringing up their children, while 4% of mothers and 5.2% of fathers frequently used “stronger” forms of violent discipline. Corporal punishment was more common for boys than for girls. More than two thirds of mothers (67.5% ) and fathers (68.8% ) rejected beatings as a means of education. (Federal Ministry of the Environment, Youth and the Family, “Causes and consequences of violence against women and children”. Cited in initial state report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 1996, CRC/C/11/Add.14, para.258)

Recommendations by human rights treaty bodies

Committee on the Rights of the Child

“The Committee appreciates that corporal punishment has been prohibited by law in all settings, including in the family, the penal system and institutions of childcare. However, the Committee is concerned that corporal punishment may still be practised in the family.

“The Committee recommends that the State party continue its public education and awareness raising campaigns on non-violent forms of discipline and child-rearing. The Committee also recommends that the State party undertake studies on the prevalence of violence in children’s experiences and the negative effects of corporal punishment on the development of children.”
(31 March 2005, CRC/C/15/Add.251, Concluding observations on second report, paras. 39 and 40)

 

“The Committee commends the State party on its prohibition of all forms of corporal punishment through its 1989 ban on ‘any type of physical or psychological abuse of children as means of education’ (CRC/C/11/Add.14, para. 256). It also notes additional efforts to increase the protection of children against abuse, including the adoption of a comprehensive list of measures against violence in family and society and of an Action Plan against Child Abuse and against Child Pornography in the Internet...”
(7 May 1999, CRC/C/15/Add.98, Concluding observations on initial report, para.3)

European Committee of Social Rights

“The Act No.162/1989 on Parents and Children (Amendment) prohibits the use of force and the infliction of physical and mental suffering on children. Section 146a of the General Civil Code states, ‘the application of violence and the infliction of physical or mental harm are unlawful’.”
(2001, Conclusions XV-2, page 67)

This analysis has been compiled from information from governmental and non-governmental sources, including reports on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every effort is made to maintain its accuracy. Please send us updating information and details of sources for missing information: info@endcorporalpunishment.org.

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