The Malta Independent 26 May 2019, Sunday

INDEPTH: Adults still smack children even though it’s illegal – Appogg

INDEPTH online Friday, 25 May 2018, 09:36 Last update: about 13 months ago

The use of corporal punishment in Malta is still found to exist within all classes of society, Aġenzija Appoġġ  services manager Roberta Agius. Contradicting perceptions that lower-income families use corporal punishment more, Agius has said that studies around the world show that the use of corporal punishment on children exists across all social classes.

Agius was being interviewed on the latest edition of INDEPTH by The Malta Independent editor-in-chief Rachel Attard. On the 31 May and 1 June, the President's Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society is hosting a High Level Global Conference on the Universal Prohibition of Corporal Punishment.


The use of corporal punishment, by definition, is a punishment intended to cause physical pain on a person, most often minors. Traditionally, Agius explains, the notion of such punishment has been passed down from one generation to the other, such that not too long ago it was quite normal to "smack your child on the arm, the bottom or run after them with a wooden spoon," Agius said.

The use of corporal punishment in Malta is illegal with amendments back in 2014 passed by Parliament to completely eradicate any form of corporal punishment on children making it a criminal offence. Prior to reform, the law had allowed the use of "moderate" corporal punishment within the concept of lawful correction.

Nevertheless, corporal punishment still exists, Agius admits, adding that although its use has drastically decreased over the last two decades and it has been acknowledged as unacceptable, it still occurs within some families. "In society today, many parents are aware that this is not acceptable and so parents will not smack or hit their child in public. In the past you would see it on the streets; parents threatening or hitting their child. Now they know better - they can be reported and social services will intervene. Instead, some parents now use it behind closed doors."

Asked about physical abuse and child abuse versus corporal punishment, Agius stipulated clearly the differences between the two. "A distinction must be made, where corporal punishment tends to occur in a family where there is love but there is simply lack of awareness of the fact that smacking your child is still wrong."

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