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Launched a campaign for legislative change of physical punishment of children

03.10.2007, Source: Danas

One slap is also violence against children

Belgrade – Campaign for legislative change of physical punishment of children in Serbia, under the slogan “Always by right, never by might” was launched yesterday. Promoters of this initiative, 18 nongovernmental organizations supported by “Save the children” and UNICEF, demand adoption of measures for explicit legislative ban and prevention of physical abuse in any type of environment and especially in primary and foster families and in institutions for child protection. In the manifest of the initiative it is said that every physical punishment endangers health, integrity and dignity of a child and make believe that violence is acceptable way of resolving problems.

Ministries without protocol on protection

Ivana Stevanovic said that only former Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Policy, as well as Ministries of Education and Internals, adopted Special protocol on child protection from abuse and neglecting, while Ministries of Health and Justice still didn’t do so.

Family Law did not send a clear message to children and their parents that physical abuse is forbidden and unacceptable as disciplinary action. Formulations it contains leave the possibility that slapping in some cases may be treated as disciplinary method, which is unacceptable, as one slap is also violence against child – said Ivana Stevanovic, president of the Managing Board in Center for Child�s Rights at yesterday’s press conference. She also said that legislative changes are only the first step to the complete child protection.

Stevanovic stressed that in Serbia there is no legislation on children and that Government’s priority is not resolution of children’s situation, as the Proposal Law on Children’s Ombudsman was withdrawn from the Assembly.
Maria Luisa Fornara, representative of the UNICEF, presented information from UNICEF’s research which show that 73% of children, age from 2 to 14, are exposed to some kind of psychical or physical abuse in the family, and hat 7% of children is exposed to severe forms of physical abuse.
Rasa Sekulovic, manager of the “Save the children” programme for child protection said that initiators of this campaign propose systematic education which will change public opinion on punishing children, and measures for monitoring and reporting of any form of physical or psychical abuse, educative programmes for adults in order to meet them with non-violent methods of raising children. Sekulovic stressed negative effects that punishing may cause, as it can lead to repeated violent behavior at adults who were abused as children.
Ljuba Pejakovic, assistant to the Minister of Labor and Social Policy said that this Ministry will help the initiative to reach its goal. He said that priority is increased number of children in social institutions and development of measures that encourage natural environment for children.
Tim Bainbridge, the director of regional “Save the children” center for Southeast Europe, stressed out that each citizen as an individual should ask from the Government to be responsible and to change the legislative in order to protect children. By adopting this legislative ban, Serbia would be 19th country in the world that has adopted those measures.

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