70% of Belgian parents don't know what punishment is considered child abuse

70% of Belgian parents don't know what punishment is considered child abuse
Credit: Belga

Seven in ten Belgians do not know what is allowed in terms of punishments when raising their children, according to a poll commissioned by Défense des enfants International Belgique, an NGO.

2,013 Belgians aged between 18 and 75 were questioned in the poll, which was conducted online between 10 and 18 March by Dedicated.

Tapping or even hitting with an object is still common practice, the survey showed. Yet, two out of three favour legislation to regulate violence in education. This percentage rises to 74 percent if the law is not punitive for parents, according to the poll.

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A majority of respondents felt that a parent had the right to punish their child. Most parents reported shouting, giving a little slap, hitting, pushing or grabbing the child as go-to punishments.

Two out of ten respondents considered pulling on the ears, squeezing, locking in the cellar or denying a meal to be suitable punishments.

One in ten even considered it legitimate to leave a child behind for a long time or in a painful position, throw an object at the child, hit the child with an object, pull their hair, punch or kick the child.

Seven out of ten respondents reported having taken a beating themselves. There is in fact a connection between undergoing violence yourself and the use of educational violence against one's own offspring.

Children's rights organisations advocate the adoption of laws to promote a non-violent upbringing, saying that “violence has a harmful impact on the health and development of the child. A law is therefore indispensable, but it is not enough” as it “must be accompanied by awareness-raising and prevention campaigns to quickly bring about a change in mentality, and by measures to support parenthood.”

The legislation should not aim to culpabilise or punish parents either, according to the Flemish coalition for children’s rights. "Parents with questions or problems concerning upbringing should always be able to count on a broad and easily accessible range of support.

The survey was conducted before the lockdown, but during that week-long lockdown the intrafamily violence also increased, "so it's urgent time for action."

The Brussels Times

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