But Holden and a growing number of children’s advocates still believe the time is right for a serious effort to end corporal punishment. For some in the burgeoning stop-hitting movement, the goal is nothing less than a total legal ban on spanking in all settings, as has been passed by 33 nations in Europe, Latin America and Africa (soon to be 34 when Brazil becomes the largest country to outlaw spanking in final action expected this year).
So far in this country, even limited anti-spanking laws have gone nowhere. A 2008 proposal to make it illegal to spank a child younger than 3 was greeted with howls of nanny-state overreach in the California Assembly before being withdrawn. In 2011, a bill targeting some of the more extreme physical discipline measures that have been considered “reasonable corporal punishment” — hitting with dangerous objects, punching with closed fists, shaking toddlers younger than 3 — was hooted down in the Maryland Senate.
“I had legislators telling me that they had not been spared the rod when they were young and look at them now,” said State Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery), the bill’s chief sponsor. “It’s really entrenched in the culture. I do think we need a social movement against violence in the home.”