Czech Justice Ministry's Childhood Without Violence Initiative would abolish corporal punishment

Czechia lags behind other European countries in meeting international obligations to protect children. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 01.06.2023 14:00:00 (updated on 01.06.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech Justice Ministry is proposing amendments to the Civil Code making it unacceptable to punish children. The new legislation would not criminalize parents and will not introduce penalties for them. Its purpose is to make parents realize for themselves that it is more appropriate to use other educational means, Deputy Justice Minister Karel Dvořák said at a press conference to introduce the Childhood Without Violence initiative.

“It is a statement of the societal value that beating children is unacceptable. The Civil Code already contains several provisions of a declaratory nature in the area of family law – for example, that spouses are obliged to live together or that children are to respect their parents," Dvořák said.

Dvořák pointed out that the Czech Republic is one of the last EU countries to lack similar provisions on the unacceptability of punishing children. "Legislation that considers proportionate corporal punishment as an educational tool is not in line with the Czech Republic's international obligations, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child," Dvořák said.

International guidelines oppose punishment

Article 19 of that convention states that governments are obliged to “take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”

Similarly, the Council of Europe since 2004 has recommended a Europe-wide ban on corporal punishment of children, pointing out that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled multiple times that corporal punishment violates children’s rights as guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.

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The European Union released a strategy on the rights of the child and the European child guarantee in 2021. In part, it deals with combating violence against children and ensuring child protection and also makes reference to the UN Convention.

Czech law allows proportional punishment

The Czech Civil Code, in its current form, already stipulates that “educational measures may only be used in a form and degree that is proportionate to the circumstances, does not endanger the child's health or development, and does not affect the child's human dignity.”

The Justice Ministry prepared two versions of the amendment. The first adds to the passage on educational measures that “the human dignity of the child is affected by corporal punishment, infliction of mental hardship, and other humiliating measures.”

The second, in the provision on parental responsibility, among the duties and rights of parents lists the development of the child without corporal punishment and mental hardship. Dvořák said that the amendment was "expected to enter the legislative process during the summer of this year."

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