In March, France was given a good spanking by the European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR).  The issue under litigation was France’s brutishness in allowing the corporal punishment of children.  The mission of the ECSR is to judge whether the signatories to the European Social Charter are in conformity with all of the charter’s provisions.  The charter sets forth various “rights,” such as the right to social-welfare services, the right of labor to organize, and the right to subsidized housing.

The Association for the Protection of All Children (APPROACH) filed a complaint with the ECSR asserting that France was in violation of Article 17 of the charter “on the grounds that there is no explicit and effective prohibition [in French law] of all corporal punishment of children in the family, schools, and other settings.”

Article 17, in pertinent part, requires European nations “to protect children and young persons against negligence, violence, or exploitation.”  APPROACH and like-minded groups see freedom from corporal punishment as “a fundamental right of every child.”

According to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, an organization supported by APPROACH, “For too long, children all over the world were treated as second class citizens, not full human beings; adults could treat them as they wished and inflict violent punishment with impunity.”  Spanking a child, APPROACH avers, is a form of violent punishment.

In addition to Article 17, APPROACH and its associates frame the issue as one of equal protection.  Civilized states have laws that protect persons from assault and battery.  Children are persons, too, and are thus entitled to the same legal protections as adults.  To the extent a country permits parents to spank their children, it denies children the equal protection of the laws.

In response to this babble, France argued that Article 17 does not require a general ban on all forms of corporal punishment.  France pointed out that she already has statutes that punish true violence against children and that there are stiffer penalties when the victim is under 15 years of age.

The ECSR summarily ruled against France’s assertion that not all spanking or smacking rises to the level of child abuse.  The committee quoted from U.N. reports defining harmful corporal punishment as “any . . . physical force . . . used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.”  Viewing the disciplining of children as akin to waterboarding a prisoner, the ECSR cited decisions by the World Organization against Torture and concluded that Article 17 requires France to abolish all forms of corporal punishment.

The ECSR decision is broad, but does not go quite as far as the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.  Those looney tunes call for the abolition of any punishment that “threatens, scares or ridicules the child.”  In other words, fussing at a child for bad behavior should be outlawed, according to the United Nations.

The one bright spot found in APPROACH v. France is that ECSR decisions (for the time being) are toothless.  After the ECSR has issued a decision on the merits of a complaint, the offending state must annually provide information about the steps it has taken to implement the committee’s recommendations.  There is no mechanism to force France to adopt laws banning corporal punishment.  However, APPROACH and its allies have had success in pushing their agenda.  Eleven out of the 29 states that have accepted Article 17 of the European Social Charter have enacted laws prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment.  Nine more have promised to do so in the near future.

Proverbs 13:24 teaches us that “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”  Using a misguided sense of compassion and rights, the ECSR and APPROACH are determined to outlaw proper and necessary discipline that parents have employed for thousands of years.  Modern Europe has shown itself virtually incapable of adopting fiscal austerity measures and defending itself from waves of Islamic invaders.  Taking the power to spank children away from parents likely will not breed self-restraint and perseverance—qualities that Europe definitely needs to survive.