In July 1979, Sweden became the first country in the world to make child abuse of any form illegal. This came after Swedish parents lost their right to hit children for educational purposes back in 1966. Multiple international human rights bodies have deemed Corporeal punishment in the home a violation of children’s dignity and right to bodily integrity.
Today, 40 years after the first ban, only 54 countries have made corporal punishment of children illegal. 10 years after the Swedish ban, Britain followed and illegalized some forms of child abuse under the Children Act of 1989. This follows the adoption of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, that occurred the same year.
Nevertheless, spanking children at home is still legal in Britain, and a Rosemary Bennet study from 2006 determined that the majority of British parents deemed some corporeal punishment of children to be socially acceptable.
This month Swedish news organization SVT are recognizing the developments that have been made since Sweden made international history 40 years ago. While they say it’s great to see a more and more countries adopting a zero-tolerance policy, they also state that more still needs to be done, as child abuse is prevalent across the globe despite legislation. Kristina Nordell, Coordinator at the Swedish Center Against Violence in Umeå, Sweden states that one of the main causes behind corporeal punishment is stressed out parents.
While now more widely accepted, once the original Ban was officiated in 1979, the laws caused international debate and controversy. One Swedish radio station recalls headlines stating that the ‘Swedes have gone mad’ due to the new legislation.