European country legislates for ‘non-violent’ parenting

Switzerland seeks to amend its civil code to outlaw physical and psychological abuse of children

Switzerland’s Federal Council has announced its intention to introduce the principle of “non-violent parenting” in the country’s civil code. As reported by the Swissinfo news agency on Wednesday, the cabinet of ministers has launched a public consultation process for the corresponding amendments that aim to prohibit all forms of violence, both physical and verbal, against children.

Currently, parental violence is already outlawed in Switzerland’s criminal code and everyone, including teachers, nursery, and after-school staff, is obligated to report any cases of suspected violence against children to the authorities.

Federal Councilor Elisabeth Baume-Schneider, however, wants to go further by fixing the principle of non-violent children’s education in the country’s civil code. She indicated that her department is already preparing the relevant amendments, which aim to make sure parents raise their children “without applying any physical punishments or other forms of degrading violence.”

The concept of “physical punishment” as laid out in Baume-Schneider’s proposed legislation includes both soft and hard physical impact. In an explanatory note attached to the bill, any sort of slapping or shaking are considered light punishments while striking with things like belts and sticks, burning and kicking are considered severe forms of violence.

Meanwhile, examples of psychological violence include threats, insults, humiliation, contempt, and intimidation, as well as neglect, ostracism and isolation.

At the same time, Nicole Hitz, a researcher at the Federal Office of Justice, told Swissinfo that introducing such provisions to the Swiss Civil Code has “nothing to do with the desire of the state to exercise control over education or punish violations.” Instead, the principles are meant to provide a “signal” to parents and to help ensure that children do not have to endure violence at home.

The Federal Council is also proposing to expand and strengthen already existing counseling services for parents and children, and to make such services more readily available for Swiss families.

The move has been welcomed by Child Protection Switzerland, whose chief Regula Bernhard Hug said she was delighted at the proposal, stating that it “creates clarity and has a great signal effect” as many parents are currently “not sure what is allowed and what is not.” 

The period for public discussion on the amendments to the civil code will end on November 23, 2023. Until then, all interested persons, parties and organizations will have the opportunity to express their concerns or other comments about the legislation.

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