In October 2018, one year after it was initially proposed by John Finnie MSP, the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill reached the Equalities and Human Rights Committee of the Scottish Parliament, which is leading the scrutiny of the Bill.
As part of their scrutinising process, the Committee opened a call for the general public’s views on whether smacking children should be illegal. The consultation opened on 2nd November 2018 and will close on 25th January 2019.
The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill - also known simply as the Equal Protection Bill - is designed to give children equal protection with adults from assault. Currently, the law permits the assault of children for the purposes of “reasonable chastisement,” meaning that parents and other caretakers can smack children to discipline them. The Bill would abolish this clause, making it just as illegal to hit a child as it currently is to assault an adult.
The Bill has so far elicited mixed responses from the public and third sector organisations. Children’s charities such as Barnardo’s, Children 1st and NSPCC Scotland have announced their support, arguing that it will help to protect children from physical abuse and fulfil their right to feel safe at home. However, an oppositional campaign called ‘Be Reasonable’ has been launched by parents who claim that the Bill amounts to excessive governmental interference in family life.
Adults and children alike can submit their views to the Equalities and Human Rights Committee online.