The Right Not to be Hit

In the UK, hitting other people is illegal. It’s called ‘assault’. That is unless the person you hit is a child. In that case it is called ‘reasonable chastisement’, and so long as you don’t leave a mark, it is still legal.

To me, this is nonsensical. Surely everyone should have equal protection in the law? If anything, children need extra protection from assault, not less. ‘Smacking’ means to hurt a child deliberately, and this should not be an acceptable thing to do.

Some parents claim it is their right to hit their children and the state should not intervene. But children are not the property of their parents. Violence against anyone, including anyone in the family, should be illegal and the state should intervene to stop people getting hurt.

There are numerous other reasons why hitting children should be banned. Firstly, adults need to set a good example for young children to follow. The idea that if someone does something you dislike, you hit them, is surely not a message we want children to pick up.

The UK is also under international pressure to give children equal protection. For instance, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the European Committee on Social Rights have both said the UK needs to update its laws. The UK is behind several countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, which have all outlawed corporal punishment.

Thirdly, the vague wording of rules over hitting children leaves children open to more serious abuse. One person’s ‘reasonable punishment’ will seem extreme to others. Research has also shown that parents often hit their children harder than they mean to. A complete ban on violence against children removes any ambiguity.

News reports frequently feature statistics on how many parents support smacking. Children’s views are rarely mentioned. This needs to change.

The Children are Unbeatable! Alliance is a campaign to make hitting children against the law. They are looking for people, especially children and young people, to get involved in their campaign. If you want to get involved you should sign up to the Children are Unbeatable! Alliance, on the website: for young people or for adults. Or for more information, contact Elinor Milne, Children’s Campaign Co-ordinator: phone/text: 07504 738 741, email:

Rachael Harrington was aged 18 when she wrote this article, which has also appeared in Debatable (Issue 5, February 2008), published by UK Youth Parliament, RUCKUS (Issue 10, Summer 2008), published by the National Youth Agency, CHIPS Chat (Summer 2008) and Exchange (Issue 7, Summer 2008), published by the NSPCC.

1 thought on “The Right Not to be Hit”

  1. Hitting children does not automatically equal abuse. It’s a very efficient disciplinary tool which if used in appropriate way can teach children where the boundaries are. People who blindly belief the non-hitting dogmas have hurt many families and CHILDREN. I am in my twenties and I was smacked when I was a child. And guess what? I do know the reason why it was, I don’t think it’s OK to hit others as I please and I do not think children are unequal to adults.
    It’s OK for adult so hit a child- but let’s put this as specifically as it should be put: It’s OK for a parent to hit his/her kids if they misbehave.


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