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Israel Bans Spanking

JERUSALEM, 26 January 2000

Supreme Court: Corporal punishment of children is indefensible

By Dan Izenberg

JERUSALEM - The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that corporal punishment of children by their parents is never educational and always causes serious harm to the children.

Yitzhak Kadman, head of the National Council for the Child, declared that the ruling established a precedent and "finally recognized the right of children not to be exposed to violence of any kind, even when those who use violence makes excuses for it, saying it is 'educational' or 'punitive.'"

The court was ruling on the appeal of a mother who was convicted of brutal treatment and assault of a minor for hitting and slapping her children and, in two specific cases, hitting her daughter with a vacuum cleaner and punching her son in the face, breaking his tooth.

The lower court convicted the woman, Nathalie Baku, and sentenced her to a one-year suspended sentence and supervision by a probation officer for a year and a half. Baku appealed against her conviction and sentence to the Supreme Court. Two of the three justices on the panel, Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and Dorit Beinisch, rejected the appeal. In a minority decision, Justice Izhak Englard ruled that Baku had not used brutality against her children.

Beinisch wrote that "corporal punishment is not effective from an educational point of view and causes serious harm to the child."

Corporal punishment does not jibe with the aims of establishing a better society and violates the Basic Law: Human Freedom and Dignity, she added. Therefore, there is no way to defend it.

"In the judicial, social and educational circumstances in which we live, we must not make compromises that can endanger the welfare and physical well-being of minors," Beinisch wrote. "We must also take into account that we are living in a society where violence is spreading like a plague."

"If we allow 'light' violence, it might deteriorate into very serious violence. We must not endanger the physical and mental well-being of a minor with any type of corporal punishment. A truth which is worthy must be clear and unequivocal and the message is that corporal punishment is not allowed."

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