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Report updated October 2012

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Child population
1,534,000 (UNICEF, 2010)

Summary of law reform necessary to achieve full prohibition

Corporal punishment is prohibited in all settings, including the home.

Current legality of corporal punishment

Home

Corporal punishment is prohibited in the home. The defence of “reasonable” punishment was removed from the law on assault in 1977. Article 146a of the General Civil Code (1989) states: “The minor child must follow the parents’ orders. In their orders and in the implementation thereof, parents must consider the age, development and personality of the child; the use of force and infliction of physical or psychological suffering are not permitted.” The Law on the Rights of the Child (2011) confirms the prohibition in article 5(1): “Every child has the right to non-violent upbringing. Corporal punishment, the infliction of mental suffering, sexual abuse and other abuses are prohibited….”

Schools

Corporal punishment was banned in all schools in 1974. Article 47(3) of the School Education Act states: “In order to maintain discipline in schools, teachers may not have recourse to means that would injure the human dignity of pupils, such as corporal punishment or insulting remarks or collective punishments.”

Penal system

Corporal punishment was abolished as a sentence for crime by 1867 and is not available as a sanction under the Penal Code, the Penal Execution Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure Reform Act (2004) or the Juvenile Court Act (1988).

Corporal punishment is unlawful as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions, but we have yet to identify prohibiting legislation.

Alternative care

Corporal punishment is prohibited in alternative care settings. The prohibition in article 146a of the General Civil Code (see above) applies to all persons with parental authority over children.

Prevalence research

A study carried out in 2008 examined the prevalence of corporal punishment and attitudes towards it through interviews with 1,054 Austrian young people aged 12-18, 1,049 Austrian parents and 614 immigrant parents (from Turkey, the former Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe) living in Austria. Compared to a similar study in 1991, which involved 380 parents of children aged under 6, the study found that the prevalence of corporal punishment had fallen: in 2008, 31.4% of Austrian mothers of children aged under 6 never used corporal punishment, compared to 8.5% in 1991, and 4.1% used “light” corporal punishment such as slapping and spanking “often”, compared to 30.5% in 1991. A large majority of all the groups interviewed agreed that “a non-violent upbringing is ideal”: 88.3% of young people, 86.2% of Austrian parents and 81.1% of immigrant parents. Ninety-six per cent of young people believed that they had legally defined rights, 78.1% of boys and 84.6% of girls were “sure” that they had a right to an upbringing without violence and 41.2% of boys and 42.1% of girls were aware of the law prohibiting corporal punishment.  Of those who were aware of the law, 62.4% of young people had heard about it at school or other facilities for children, and 70.8% of Austrian and 66.7% of immigrant parents had heard about it in the media (TV, newspapers, radio and cinema). (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft, Familie und Jugend (2009) Familie - kein Platz für Gewalt!(?): 20 Jahre gesetzliches Gewaltverbot in Österreich, Vienna: Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft, Familie und Jugend)

A study carried out in 2007 examined five European countries: Sweden, Austria, Germany, France and Spain. Five thousand parents (1,000 in each nation) were interviewed about their use of and attitude towards corporal punishment, their own experiences of violence and their knowledge and beliefs about the law. One in two Austrian parents (50%) said they had “mildly” slapped their child on the face and 62% had slapped their child on the bottom; 18% had given their child a “resounding” slap on the face and 4.4% had beaten their child with an object. Thirty per cent of Austrian parents never used corporal punishment; 89% agreed that “one should try to use as little corporal punishment as possible” and 86% agreed that “non-violent child-rearing is the ideal”. (Bussmann, K. D. (2009), The Effect of Banning Corporal Punishment in Europe: A Five-Nation Comparison, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg)

For research published more than ten years ago see the research pages at www.endcorporalpunishment.org.

Recommendations by human rights treaty bodies

Committee on the Rights of the Child

“The Committee notes that the State party has taken measures to raise awareness about non-violent forms of child-rearing, including financial support to institutions that are educating parents on such forms of child-rearing. However, it remains concerned by the continued use of corporal punishment by many parents and by the fact that parts of the population are still unaware of the prohibition of all forms of corporal punishment in the State party.

“The Committee recommends that the State party strengthen and expand awareness-raising programmes and education campaigns in order to promote positive and alternative forms of discipline and respect for children's rights, with the involvement of children, in line with general comment No. 8 (CRC/C/GC/8, 2006). It also recommends that the State party continue educating teachers and parents on the immediate and long-term negative impact, including the psychological and physical impact, of corporal punishment on children.”
(5 October 2012, CRC/C/AUT/CO/3-4 Advance Unedited Version, Concluding observations on third-fourth report, paras. 33 and 34)

“The Committee appreciates that corporal punishment has been prohibited by law in all settings, including in the family, the penal system and institutions of childcare. However, the Committee is concerned that corporal punishment may still be practised in the family.

“The Committee recommends that the State party continue its public education and awareness raising campaigns on non-violent forms of discipline and child-rearing. The Committee also recommends that the State party undertake studies on the prevalence of violence in children’s experiences and the negative effects of corporal punishment on the development of children.”
(31 March 2005, CRC/C/15/Add.251, Concluding observations on second report, paras. 39 and 40)

“The Committee commends the State party on its prohibition of all forms of corporal punishment through its 1989 ban on ‘any type of physical or psychological abuse of children as means of education’ (CRC/C/11/Add.14, para. 256). It also notes additional efforts to increase the protection of children against abuse, including the adoption of a comprehensive list of measures against violence in family and society and of an Action Plan against Child Abuse and against Child Pornography in the Internet...”
(7 May 1999, CRC/C/15/Add.98, Concluding observations on initial report, para.3)

European Committee of Social Rights

“The Committee notes from another source that corporal punishment is prohibited in the home. Article 146a of the General Civil Code (1989) states: ‘The minor child must follow the parents’ orders. In their orders and in the implementation thereof, parents must consider the age, development and personality of the child; the use of force and infliction of physical or psychological suffering are not permitted.’ The defence of ‘reasonable’ punishment was removed from the law on assault in 1977.

“Corporal punishment was banned in all schools in 1974. Section 47.3 of the School Education Act states: ‘In order to maintain discipline in schools, teachers may not have recourse to means that would injure the human dignity of pupils, such as corporal punishment or insulting remarks or collective punishments.’”
(January 2012, Conclusions 2011)

“The Act No.162/1989 on Parents and Children (Amendment) prohibits the use of force and the infliction of physical and mental suffering on children. Section 146a of the General Civil Code states, ‘the application of violence and the infliction of physical or mental harm are unlawful’.”
(2001, Conclusions XV-2, page 67)

Universal Periodic Review

Austria was examined in the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in 2011 (session 10). No recommendations were made concerning corporal punishment of children.

Examination in the second cycle is scheduled for 2015.

This analysis has been compiled from information from governmental and non-governmental sources, including reports on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every effort is made to maintain its accuracy. Please send us updating information and details of sources for missing information: info@endcorporalpunishment.org.

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