Child protection or child abuse?

Child protection or child abuse?

By Ruby Harrold-Claesson, attorney-at-law

 

 

 


Ruby Harrold-Claesson is the president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights NKMR/NCHR
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This article was previously published as a comment to "the story behind the horsewhip smacking case" on the Big News Blogg Spot in July, 2005.

 

 

 

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Child protection lobbyists and the social services usually stress the importance of "protecting children from violence". This was one of the arguments used to justify the smacking ban in Sweden. Only six (6) of the 268 Swedish parliamentarians voted against the law. Three abstained. They had looked beyond the façade and found that there was a great deal of totalitarianism behind the law.

During the consultation period several important organs of the state e g the State Prosecutor, the Regional Prosecutor in Östergötland and others voiced their doubts and fears. For more info see THE EFFECTS OF THE SWEDISH ANTI-SMACKING LAW - CONSULTATION PAPER.
 Some important organs of the state were very negative to the proposed law because of the indoctrination in violence that permeates the society in the Newscasts, films etc. Some even meant that the "administrative violence" that would be the result of the law should not be taken lightly. In fact, children who are removed from their parents care because mother or father has smacked them are severely punished by the state - because separation from their parents, siblings and other members of their family and their home environment is devastating for the children.

Here is a case that I am working on:

On October 16, 2003, the social council in the southern Sweden municipality Svalöv decided to take seven brothers and sisters into public care. The seven children were born between 1990 - 1999. Their father, Mats Nilsson, had been accused of "disturbance of peace" of his children, for eg pulling their ear, taking them by the back of their necks holding their arms or the like. He was arrested and confined pending trial. The mother, Charlotte Ydström-Nilsson, was not accused of any misdemeanors, yet five of the children were immediately placed in foster care. The two boys who were not taken immediately were at home because they were sick. One of them was suffering from ear-ache and fever and the other, the middle child who was born with myelocele thus an invalid confined to his wheel-chair, had only just returned from the hospital after an operation. The social workers promised the mother that they would let the sick youngsters remain with her but a few hours later they returned with an ambulance and transported them to separate destinations.

On November 27, 2003, the father was completely acquitted in the Criminal court. However, the social council proceeded in the care case and on December 18, 2003, three weeks after his acquittal, the Administrative County court ruled in favour of the social council and against the children and their parents. On April 21, 2004, the Administrative court of Appeal in Gothenburg confirmed the ruling of the lower court. The lawyers did not appeal the case to the Supreme Administrative court.

On June 30, 2004 the parents applied to the social council to have the care order lifted. The mother, who was then pregnant with child no. eight has had to keep out of the way of the social workers for fear that they would take the baby at birth and she has had to avoid meeting her other children. The baby was born in September 2004 and the mother moved to a neighbouring municipality, yet on January 19, 2005 the social council that decided to take the couple's seven children into care decided to take the newborn baby into care. However, it is most unlikely that they will ever find the mother and her baby.

The couple has since then been fighting the Swedish bureaucracy to get their seven children back from state care. The most recent verdicts concerning the family were delivered on March 8, resp. March 31, 2005 in the Administrative County Court and June 28, 2005 in the Administrative Court of Appeal in Gothenburg. In these cases, the judges ruled in favour of the social services viz against the parents and their children.

Do you really want cases like this one and many others that I have worked with in New Zealand?

The anti-smacking lobby claims that children of "smacking parents" are violated, will lose their self confidence and will become violent adults. Why the exaggeration? Isn't is strange that all those generations of children who have been smacked - and even beaten - are not necessarily mentally damaged or violent individuals? In fact, statistics show and a former head of penitentiaries in Sweden, Mrs AnnBritt Grunewald has confirmed, that the majority of the prison interns in Sweden have been in the foster home system.

Also, it must be taken into account that violence is used to resolve differences between individuals and States eg the war in Irak. And, for those who would like to believe that Sweden is a peaceful society because of the anti-smacking law should read Prof. Robert Larzelere's findings in

Sweden's smacking ban: more harm than good

For more information about the Swedish/Nordic experiences see The NCHR's Article Archives section "Bringing up children and youths"


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