RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will send a bill to Congress on Wednesday that would ban the corporal punishment that parents and teachers inflict on children, including slaps and spankings, a Cabinet member said Tuesday.
The bill will be an amendment to the Child and Adolescent Law, an ambitious piece of legislation for protecting children that went into effect exactly 20 years ago, Human Rights Minister Paulo Vannuchi said.
He told state radio that the idea is not a novelty since at least 25 countries have laws that ban parents from hitting their kids, and that his intention is not to usurp parental authority but to prevent corporal punishment.
He added that the proposed legislation does not seek to imprison “any parent who hits” a child but rather to warn them, get them into a family-protection program and provide them with psychological guidance.
The bill bans the practice of corporal punishment and the cruel and degrading treatment of children and adolescents.
Even though the Child and Adolescent Law already includes sanctions for those responsible for mistreating minors, the amendment specifically defines corporal punishment as using physical force for “disciplinary or punitive” purposes that can cause “pain or injury to a child or adolescent.”
If the measure becomes law, offenders will be warned by the authorities and obliged to attend family-protection institutions for psychological treatment and guidance.
In more serious cases where the punishment causes injury, the Penal Code contemplates sentences of up to four years in prison for those who “abuse the means of correction and discipline.”
The bill is not limited to the family but includes any adult responsible for a minor, whether at home, in school or even in reformatories.
Vannuchi said the bill was discussed with a number of social organizations and is of a pedagogic nature.
The concept originated with child-care organizations that presented a draft to Vannuchi’s office, where a commission was set up to analyze the case and write the final bill.
Vannuchi said that children who are punished physically come to believe that such beatings are normal and are likely to reproduce that behavior in school or in their adult lives.
He added that the law will allow neighbors or teachers who witness corporal punishment to report those inflicting it to the authorities.
“At present a neighbor can see a child being beaten, but cannot get involved because this is considered a family matter,” he said. EFE