A domestic violence bill was submitted to the Greek Parliament last week, promising tough punishments on all forms of abuse, making spousal abuse grounds for divorce (what, it wasn't already?), and outlawing any type of corporal punishment against a child. The law will apply equally to married and unmarried couples that live together.
I certainly can't argue with the main focus of the bill - targeting forms of abuse which may have been treated lightly in Greece in the past. There is no excuse for mistreatment of any kind - against children, spouses, the disabled or the elderly - and the Greek legal system should have just punishments in place for these crimes. But telling parents they aren't allowed to punish their children physically, in any way, for any reason, might be crossing the line a little bit.
Let me make myself clear: I don't think spanking or repeatedly hitting a child is an effective or responsible punishment technique. I can't stand parents who smack their kids over the littlest bit of whining or misbehavior. And lets not even go into hard core abusive situations - I'd prefer to not even say what I think should happen to such parents, whether it be physical or mental abuse.
But I do think sometimes children might need to be punished in a more direct and firm manner than just a time out, or grounding them, or whatever other nonphysical techniques may be used. My parents rarely used physical punishments with me. And by rarely, I mean once, that I can remember. As far as I can recall, looking back on that incident now, my mother was well within her rights to punish me that way - any other type of punishment may not have driven in the seriousness of my transgression.
I was about five or six years old, and playing alone in our yard. A friend in an adjoining yard called me over, and convinced me to go off with him and a couple of other children to a construction site in the neighborhood. I went, of course, and had a grand old time, playing on all the equipment, and finally decided to go home. My parents, who were actually expecting company that night, were beside themselves with worry, fear - all the things that go through a parent's mind when their child is missing. I meandered my way back into the yard completely happy, completely dirty, and having no conception that anything I had done was wrong in any way, shape or form. My mother was furious, and I was sentenced to my first corporal punishment - a few smacks from the fly swatter. Sure, a fly swatter seems harmless enough, but not when yielded by an angry mother's powerful arm. She made it quite clear that going off without telling her or getting her permission was NEVER an option. Never. Because my parents rarely used such punishments I knew how serious the matter was, and how I had done wrong. I knew I should always tell my mother where I was going and what my plans were. More importantly, I never did anything that would require such a punishment again.
Under the new bill proposed to the Greek government, my mother could have served a year in prison for those hits with the fly swatter. The thought of that is absolutely ridiculous. I certainly do understand the need to protect children (and others) in Greece - there have been way too many deaths due to abuse lately. But there is a fine line between protection and absolute control.