Sweden is internationally often associated with IKEA, Ingmar Bergman and, more recently, the Swedish House Mafia. Another aspect, for which Sweden is well known at least in certain circles, is that it was the first country in the world to introduce a prohibition against the physical punishment of children in 1979. Studies conducted after the enactment of the ban have shown remarkable societal changes, both as to parental views and the use of physical punishment with children. The majority of Swedish parents today, in contrast to the situation prior to the ban, have a very negative view and low tolerance for violence against children. The restrictions in the ability of parents to determine how to raise their children is scarcely questioned or even generally debated. From an international perspective, the prohibition in itself but also the negative attitudes towards physical punishment as part of child raising are the exception. Prohibitions are today found in 48 of the approximately 200 countries. Proponents for the enactment of a prohibition against physical punishment worldwide often use Sweden as a model. However, there is a risk that the situation in Sweden is described, analyzed and used in a somewhat oversimplified manner. Despite the fact that the Swedish reform can and in many ways definitely should be seen as a model, there are reasons to critically review the Swedish prohibition in a broader perspective. Much speaks to the fact that the Swedish system with respect to protecting children from violence and vulnerability is currently facing a series of challenges, of which some even might be tied to the enactment of the prohibition. In this presentation the physical punishment prohibition in Sweden is placed in its broader context and positive as well as negative consequences and effects are discussed.
About the Speaker
Pernilla Leviner is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, Stockholm University and the deputy head of the Stockholm Centre for the Rights of the Child. Her research interests lie within and at the border of the fields of public and family law, and concern different aspects of children’s rights and child protection. Recent and on-going projects are focused on, among other things, the role and function of courts in child protection systems, the Swedish ban on physical punishment, and children’s right to participation through legal representatives. From January to July 2016, Pernilla is on a sabbatical at the University of Oxford, the Institute for European and Comparative Law, Faculty of Law, and she is an Associate Member of Exeter College.