May 25, 2009
No, the law isn’t a cure-all for child abuse, it was never meant to be. It’s nonsense to claim, as some do, that the law is a failure because it hasn’t stopped violence against children overnight.
[Jill] Proudfoot [who’s part of a child crisis team at Preventing Violence in the Home that’s routinely called on by police to attend to families after a domestic violence incident] knows as well as anyone the role of poverty and stress, drug and alcohol dependence, and family breakdown and dysfunction. But as she argued in a submission on the proposed law, if the Government was serious about preventing domestic violence and changing attitudes and behaviour, it had to include a strong mandate to not be violent to children; and it couldn’t do that while Section 59 was still on the books.
“The sense of entitlement with which adults physically assault children is no different from the sense of entitlement men have when they batter women, but it is more overtly socially and culturally sanctioned.”
The law corrected the bizarre situation where animals used to have more protection than children:
Proudfoot cites a boy whose father was arrested for beating his mother. He’d been beaten too, “all the time”, but his father was never charged for that. Later, when the father was fined for cruelty to their pet dog (he jammed its tail in the door and refused to release it), the boy was incensed that his dad had been punished for beating the dog but not for beating him.
Misa concludes that one of the key questions for those who want to reject the Child Discipline Law is “how we can tolerate some forms of violence against children, and not others.”
And that’s not helpful for those who are trying to forge a better way – like the Rev Dr Hone Kaa, who’s part of a child advocacy group determined to address Maori child abuse and maltreatment.
“We are actually asking our people to … make a major mind shift about the beliefs of parenting …”
“We believe that smacking is simply another expression of violence against Maori children. If we can break the habit that our whanau have of hitting children, then more serious forms of abuse and maltreatment will also reduce.”