Iceland joins states offering children legal protection from all corporal punishment .
In March 2003, the Icelandic government passed a new Children’s Act which completes the process of total abolition of corporal punishment of children by making it unlawful in the home. Article 28 of the new Act states: “It is the parents obligation to protect their child against any physical or mental violence and other degrading or humiliating behaviour”. This is interpreted by government and by the Ombudsman for Children as explicitly prohibiting corporal punishment by parents, and is supported by provisions in the 2002 Child Protection Act which had already placed an obligation on parents “to treat their children with care and consideration”, and “to safeguard their welfare at all times”. The new law will enter into effect on November 1 2003.
There is no legal defence available to parents who use corporal punishment, although there is a right to use physical restraint as an emergency measure when an individual is in danger of injuring himself or others. Cases of corporal punishment may come within the scope of the Child Protection Act (2002), which orders imprisonment ‘if those who have a child in their care mistreat the child mentally or physically, abuse him/her sexually or otherwise, or neglect the child mentally or physically, so that the child’s life or health is at risk” (Article 98) and for “any person who inflicts punishments, threats or menaces upon a child, that may be expected to harm the child physically or mentally” (Article 99), and imprisonment or fines for “any person who subjects a child to aggressive, abusive or indecent behaviour or hurts or insults him/her” (Article 99).