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Organiser, David Henry
"I'm sure he will get the message eventually"
 real 28k

The BBC's Kurt Barling
"Never too young to have a point of view"
 real 28k

Saturday, 15 April, 2000, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Children in anti-smacking protest
Boy with placard
One young protester and his campaign message
Hundreds of children have marched through central London to demand an end to smacking.

They paraded along the streets of Westminster chanting "Stop the smacking", and waving placards which read Violence is not the answer and We have rights too.

The children ended their protest at Downing Street, where they handed in a letter addressed to Tony Blair, urging him to ban all physical punishment of children.

The demonstration was organised by children and teenagers from campaign group Article 12, a young people's organisation dedicated to promoting children's rights to expression.


Children at rally
Some of the hundreds of youngsters who took part
"We want to show the government actively that we are opposed to physical punishment of children," said one of the organisers, 16-year-old David Henry, from Manchester.

"We want to make a political statement to the whole world that children should not be smacked or hurt in any way by anyone.

"A lot of the little children who are here today have got a lot to say but they are the ones that don't get listened to."

Another teenage protester, Kate Wood from north London, said: "We believe that all forms of physical punishment are wrong and therefore smacking should be illegal."

And she criticised government proposals to tighten the law on assaults on children, which stop short of an outright ban.



Smacking is the root of all violence which is current in our society. There is no such thing as a loving smack

Retired chaplain Charles Dodd
"The government did a consultation document that was in very complicated language that children could not understand and they did not even bother talking to children about it," said Kate, 14.

The children were given strong support from a retired chaplain, the Rev Charles Dodd, who said all physical punishment should be banned.

"Smacking is the root of all violence which is current in our society," he said.

"There is no such thing as a loving smack."

And the 70-year-old churchman said the Church of England should issue an "unequivocal statement" to say that it did not support smacking.

Tony Blair, whose fourth child is due to be born in August, was not at Downing Street to meet them.


Marcher
Some marchers carried letters of protest
In 1998 a survey by the Office of National Statistics found that 88% of parents felt smacking was sometimes necessary but only 7% approved of caning.

Smacking has already been banned in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Cyprus, Croatia and Latvia.

Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland are all in the process of legislating against physically rebuking children.

But in the United States the law varies from state to state, with caning still allowed.

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See also:

17 Apr 00 | Scotland
Charity urges smacking ban
18 Jan 00 | Talking Point
Should smacking be illegal?
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