Woman given prison sentence for slapping son
A woman from the Brussels municipality of Evere has been given a 4-month suspended prison sentence for giving her then 12-year-old son a corrective slap. The incident happened 3 years ago during a heated argument at the family home. The woman slapped her son after he had thrown water and a book at her. A neighbour called the police after hearing the commotion.
The woman was charged and when the case came before a Brussels court the Judge found the woman guilty of assault and battery and sentenced her to 4 months imprisonment and fined her 400 euro and imposed provisional damages of 1 euro.
However, as in Belgium those sentenced to less than 6 months imprisonment don’t have to actually go to jail, the woman was able to return have after sentencing.
At the trial the woman’s solicitors told the court that her slapping in son was "corrective" in nature and as such she should be acquitted. But what is a “corrective slap” and why to some parents use corporal punishment to chastise their children? What forms of punishment can be used as an alternative to slapping when children misbehave?
Philippe Noens of the Knowledge Centre for Family Sciences told VRT News that “From a soft tap on the bottom to a slap in the face, a precise definition of a correction slap doesn’t exist. Ask 10 parents what they understand to be a correctional slap and you will get 10 different answers”.
Why do parents slap their children?
What is evident is that generally speaking parents slap their children as they are at their wits’ end. “Parents sometimes lose their self-control because they are tired or don’t have much time or because their children have been playing-up too much. They don’t do it to intentionally inflict pain on their children and they often feel guilty afterwards”, Mr Noens told VRT News.
Research has shown that 50% of the children under the age of 1 have already been slapped at least once. Meanwhile, 40% of parents believe that a correction slap can be useful in certain situations.
“This seems like a lot, but attitudes have changed over the years and parents are now principally in favour of a more positive way of bringing up children”, Mr Noens said.
“Correctieve slap” is not illegal
Speaking at the woman’s trial, her lawyer Benoît Lemal said "It was never the mother's intention to inflict pain on her son. In this country corrective slapping is not punishable by law”.
Mr Noens told VRT News that this is regrettable. “Belgium is one of the few countries where the right to grow up without violence is not enshrined in law. At our centre we have been calling for this to be done for many years”.
Mr Noens adds that a law banning violence against children should serve as a signal to society. The aim of changing the law isn’t that parents be prosecuted en masse for slapping their offspring.
"By enshrining the right to grow up without violence in law, you show society violence against children won’t be tolerated. We know that such a ban makes people more alert towards violence against children and this has a dissuasive effect”.