A move to ban parents from smacking children has been approved by the Welsh assembly and is expected to come into force in 2022 following a £2m awareness campaign.
Supporters said it was a historic day for Wales and would stop mothers and fathers using physical violence as punishment, but opponents argued it could criminalise loving parents.
The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “I’m proud Wales has taken this step and once again put children’s rights at the heart of what we do here.
“Times have changed and there is no place in a modern society for the physical punishment of children. Wales joins Scotland in being the first parts of the UK to see through a positive change to this key piece of legislation.”
Labour and Plaid Cymru backed the bill that will lead to the new law while some Tories voted against it. Welsh Conservative assembly member Janet Finch-Saunders said she was unconvinced that a ban was right or fair.
She said: “With this bill the state is now stepping into the private lives of families. This smacking ban will potentially have far-reaching consequences for us all.”
The new law will remove the defence of “reasonable punishment” that has been in force since Victorian times in England and Wales.
Ashley Frawley, a sociologist at Swansea University and spokeswoman for the Be Reasonable Wales campaign, said: “The smacking ban is simply bad policy. It will result in highly negative intervention in good families, increased pressure on beleaguered social services departments and will do nothing to help children who are genuinely at risk of abuse.”
It is the first divergence of core criminal law between Wales and England and some critics have said it could deter English people from holidaying in Wales or lead to visitors finding themselves being prosecuted because they do no know about it.
The deputy minister for health and social services, Julie Morgan, conceded some parents could be targeted by malicious allegations, which could show up on enhanced DBS checks even if they proved false.
Morgan denied that the Labour-led government was acting as a nanny state. “I really feel that parents want as much advice and help as they can get. Parenting is a really difficult job. We want parents to retain the rights to bring up children as they wish to do but we want to provide the parameters.
“There’s nothing in the legislation that stops you protecting your children, nothing that stops you from grabbing a child that is running into the road, nothing that stops you pulling a child back if they are going to grab a boiling hot cup.”
There are no plans to introduce bans in Northern Ireland or England.