We call for legal end to child corporal punishment


‘Equality Rights Group, in partnership with ‘Global Initiative’, an international NGO, is working to officially end corporal punishment in Gibraltar. ERG has recently submitted a formal report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, detailing the current legal framework in Gibraltar with regards to compliance or otherwise of standards regarding the use of corporal punishment and the rights of the child. We will continue working with the Committee on this front.

‘It may surprise many people to know that, as far as the law in Gibraltar is concerned, schools, care and day centres, are still permitted the use of corporal punishment in Gibraltar. Provisions under the Crimes Act, as indeed also within the Education and Training Act 1974, mean that the relevant Minister may make regulations for “the maintenance of discipline in Government schools, including the punishment of pupils therein and the suspension and expulsion of pupils therefrom”.

We have laid out a summary of the legal situation before the Minister for Justice, Gilbert Licudi, who has been able to reassure ERG that under present policy, the use of corporal punishment in these settings is not being and must not be exercised. Likewise, we have advised the Minister of our cooperation with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and our wish for Gibraltar to fully adopt the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, under which prohibition of corporal punishment in Gibraltar will pass from being optional policy to statutory obligation, in compliance with UN standards. We are pleased to report that the Minister has confirmed to us that Government is, indeed, pursuing the incorporation of statutory measures by Gibraltar which would bring us into line with the Convention. This is welcome news, and we shall be following progress until full adoption is achieved.

‘What is not presently clear to us, though we have asked for clarification, is whether Gibraltar will prohibit the use of corporal punishment against children not only in institutional settings, but also in the home. The United Kingdom so far (as is also the case in Gibraltar) has retained the legal defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ for this purpose and has refused to ratify this part of the Convention, but we would hope Gibraltar takes a more determined view, and moves to make illegal the use of violence against children in all settings.

‘The routine use of corporal punishment against children may seem a trite, even laughable issue to many people. One look at the world we live in, however, where violence too often comes with a seal of legitimacy and approval, should tell us that by legitimizing the use of aggression against children during their formative years, we contribute to inculcating violence over and above the value of dialogue and understanding. Is it any wonder many will later consider the use of violence acceptable and only ‘natural’?

‘To those for whom a ‘mere smack’ is almost the sign of tradition and discipline, we simply ask: if you would not normally have the audacity to lift your hand against an adult, why is it acceptable to do so against a child? Education, understanding and dialogue, especially in the early years, is the single most important legacy you can leave not only to your child, but to the world. We invite the public to work with us to end corporal punishment against children,’ the statement ended.