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Top Talker: Should Parents Be Jailed For THIS? (POLL)

Creative Commons/Alberto Vaccaro

Creative Commons/Alberto Vaccaro

Top Talker:
Should Parents Be Jailed For THIS? (POLL)

Under a new “Cinderella Law” in Great Britain, parents who don’t show their children love and affection can be prosecuted and could face up to 10 years in prison, the maximum sentence for child neglect. “Emotional cruelty” will become just as much a crime as physical or sexual abuse.

The new offense would make it a crime to do anything that deliberately harmed a child’s physical, intellectual, social or behavioral development, while other new offenses could include forcing a child to witness domestic violence, depriving them of love over a prolonged period, and using degrading punishments. The changes to current child neglect laws will be introduced in June in the Queen’s Speech.

A campaign to change the law had been led by the charity Action for Children with chief executive Sir Tony Hawkhead calling the move a “monumental step forward.” He went on to say, “I’ve met children who have been scapegoated in their families, constantly humiliated and made to feel unloved. The impact is devastating and can lead to life-long mental health problems and, in some cases, suicide.”

I thought this Cinderella Law was an April Fools’ Day prank. A good April Fool’s joke sounds outrageous, but it always has elements of reality that the object of the prank can be influenced by. (Because I have toddlers, I almost fell for this one.) But this doesn’t appear to be a joke.

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There is serious intent behind criminalizing emotional abuse. We know all too well how damaging and life-altering it can be. Who can argue against showing love to children and protecting their emotional, social, and behavioral well-being? Still, there’s one big question that comes to mind when making “love” the law of the land. Whose definition of love will be used?

I agree that in their sentencing, criminal courts around the world probably do not reflect the full range of emotional suffering experienced by children at the hands of parents and caregivers, but this is a bad law. In order to enforce it, “observable and deliberate abuse” needs to be present. Who is doing the observing? One can see signs of physical or sexual abuse, but how does one measure adequate amounts of parental affection?

Love means different things to different people—it can even be cultural. There are groups of people who don’t show obvious signs of affection and the parent-child interaction may be considered abusive to the dominant culture. Does the government have a right to criminalize these people because their definition of love doesn’t fit the government standard?

In order for a law to be fair, it must be applied uniformly. There isn’t a single definition or expression of love, so I don’t see how this law—though well-meaning—won’t be misunderstood and abused. I predict that this law will cause more money, trouble, and anguish than it’s worth. It will clog up the British court system and tear apart families that would benefit from support. Love is too subjective to be legislated.

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What do you think about the Cinderella Law? Would it work in the United States?  Take the poll and share your thoughts below.

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