If hitting an adult is considered assault, should it be permissible to hit children? More and more countries recognize that the answer is “no.” Since 2001, the number of countries that have banned all corporal punishment of children has more than quadrupled, jumping from 11 to 51. Fifty-five more have pledged to prohibit the practice.
Russian lawmakers, however, are moving in the opposite direction, and considering a new law decriminalizing domestic violence. The lawmaker who introduced the bill says that Russian parents should have the right to hit their children. “In Russian traditional family culture parent-child relationships are built on the authority of the parents’ power,” said the lawmaker, Yelena Mizulina. “The laws should support that family tradition.”
One of the fundamental responsibilities of parents is to discipline their children and provide them with guidance. But discipline should not include violence.
Parents often hit their children because it is socially accepted and because they themselves were hit when growing up. But a growing body of research shows that corporal punishment can cause enormous harm. Children who experience corporal punishment are more likely to engage in violence, and delinquent or anti-social behavior, and to experience anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and low self-esteem.
Of more than 250 published studies examining corporal punishment and its impacts, not a single one found any benefits to the practice.
Violent discipline of children can also be extremely costly. Economists have estimated that severe physical punishment of children—taking into account short and long-term costs for medical and other treatment, child welfare costs, and lower future earnings— costs the global economy a staggering US$3.6 trillion a year.
Children, like all human beings, have a right to physical integrity and equal protection under the law. Russia’s proposed law violates these guarantees. It is also harmful, counter-productive, and out of step with global trends. The Russian Parliament should reject it.