A Malaysian couple were jailed yesterday by a Stockholm court for beating their children in a case that has shocked Sweden, and raised questions about how it informs foreign parents about its smacking ban.
Azizul Awalludin, 38, and his wife Shalwati Norshal, 46, were sentenced to 10 and 14 months respectively for hitting their four children - aged seven to 14 - with a bamboo stick, a clothes hanger and their hands. They denied the charges.
But the court rejected the defence's claim that the oldest child had made up the three years of abuse. "That the children could conspire and agree together to put forward a false picture of domestic violence appears to be highly unlikely," the court said, adding that the children had been reluctant to give evidence.
The couple - in Sweden on an assignment for Tourism Malaysia but without diplomatic immunity - have been held on remand since December, when staff at the children's school reported suspicions of abuse to social services.
The case has shocked child rights observers in Sweden - which was the world's first country to ban corporal punishment of children in 1979 - and sparked outrage in the couple's home country, where hitting children is not a criminal offence.
"These cases are so extremely rare in Sweden today. This is much more severe than what we're used to," child abuse analyst Staffan Janson said.
"They may not have known [about the ban], though they may have thought that they had some kind of immunity."
But some have questioned whether Sweden is doing enough to inform newcomers of the law, as foreign-born parents are over-represented in official statistics on child assault.
Janson said smacking was more common among foreign-born parents when they first arrived, but it usually tapered off as they integrated into Sweden.