Prohibition of all corporal punishment in Norway (1987)

In January 1987 an amendment to the Parent and Child Act took effect. It states:

The child shall not be exposed to physical violence or to treatment which can threaten his physical or mental health."

This followed a recommendation from an official committee looking at child abuse and neglect, which was taken up by the Ministry of Justice. As was the case prior to legal reform in Denmark, a 1983 opinion poll in Norway found that 68% were still against prohibiting all physical punishment.

Up to 1972 the Norwegian Criminal Code on assault, dating from 1891, stated that parents and others in loco parentis had the right to use moderate corporal punishment as part of the upbringing of children. In 1972 that provision was removed, amid a lot of controversy. This caused more rather than less confusion about parents' rights to punish.

When the amendment to the Parent and Child Act was being debated in the Norwegian Parliament, the Minister of Justice suggested that even though parental physical violence was already prohibited in the Criminal Code, the new reform was not superfluous: many people did not understand or know about the law, and making corporal punishment clearly illegal in the Parent and Child Act would inform the general public. There was considerable lack of clarity about parents' rights and the legal change in 1972 had been just as confusing as clarifying. Now there would be no doubt: in applying the criminal law, the child would have the same protection as everyone else from the use of violence. It was not sufficient to protect children from "real" pain and "unnecessary" humiliation. Corporal punishment as a way of bringing up children was no longer acceptable.

But in 2005, while upholding the conviction of a man under the Penal Code for smacking his stepsons on their bare bottoms with his hand, the Supreme Court stated that lighter smacks would be permitted (30 November 2005, HR-2005-01865-A). Following a review of the law, further amendments to legislation were passed in April 2010 which confirm prohibition of all corporal punishment. Article 30(3) of the Parent and Child Act, as amended in 1987 and again in 2010, now states:

The child must not be subjected to violence or in any other way be treated so as to harm or endanger his or her mental or physical health. This shall also apply when violence is carried out in connection with upbringing of the child. Use of violence and frightening of annoying behaviour or other inconsiderate conduct towards the child is prohibited.”

 

Further information

  • Global Initiative country report for Norway 
  • Act No. 7 of 8 April 1981 relating to Children and Parents (The Children Act), as amended by Act of 9 April 2010 No. 13 (English)
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