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In brief

Italy. The padre padrone - the head of family who metes out discipline in the home - has taken a beating from the Supreme Court.

Although corporal punishment has been outlawed in schools for many years, the law has traditionally turned a blind eye to parental beatings of children. Now, thanks to the initiative of a 10-year-old who contacted carabinieri after his father had beaten him with a belt, the court has ruled that parents cannot use violence on children, even for "supposed educational reasons".

A number of incidents of domestic violence involving children, in a country generally known for its love of children and close family ties, has recently been reported in the media. Telefono azzuro, the helpline for children in difficulty, received a record 300,000 calls in 1995; 45 per cent of callers complained about violent fathers.

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