July 15, 2009
Dear YesVote team
New Zealand has shown real moral leadership with their law reform on physical punishment for children and I congratulate all who worked hard for the repeal of an unjust law against children. I strongly support your endeavours in opposing the unethical and misguided referendum question soon to be put to the vote .
I want to comment on the upcoming referendum on “smacking”.
I am not surprised that both your Prime Minister and Opposition leader will not be voting in a referendum that is so awkward and misleading in its wording. Their concerns reportedly include the fact that the question can be seen in many ways and that voting will send a wrong message. I agree with them but I worry that those not in favour of smacking will let those who are, win by abstaining from the vote. Yet if only a small number actually vote, or vote “no”, that in itself should send a strong message to the public and government. Nevertheless I encourage supporters of children’s safety to register a strong “yes” vote.
I have seen reports in the Weekend Australian (5/7/09), about two recent cases you had in Wellington and Christchurch. In one a father appears to have pushed a 7 year old child at a sports event repeatedly and another had intentional forced contact with his 4 year old son’s ear in a park. Can either be classified as a “smack” as one was repeated pushing to the ground and the other a “cuff” to the ear? Both would have been hurtful and humiliating to the children, but sadly it appears that some in favour of the use of smacking as a “good” parenting tool may be using these cases to support theirs. I wonder if I can ask a few questions about the terms of the referendum and these cases?
- Do these acts of pushing and striking amount to “smacks” to opposers of reform?
- Are these parental actions loving acts?
- Do they show parental respect for the child’s perspectives and worries?
- Are they examples of “good” parenting?
- Can homes with such activities be homes filled with love?
- Do those who believe this is good parenting believe in “light” smacks too?
- Do voters really want to permit such adult misbehaviour against children?
- How can “good “parenting include actions that police class as assaults?
- How is teaching children by smacking them “good” parenting?
- Is it “good” practice to smack under 18s like apprentices, cadets etc?
- Will such under 18s learn better with this type of teaching tool?
- Is it not illegal to teach horses, dogs and circus animals by smacking them?
- Should the small number of charges require a change in the new law?
- Why would members of parliament change the law that a majority accepted?
- Why is it OK to use such large funding to promote the cause of those who want to hit children?
New Zealand has been a fine example to other countries where child advocates speak out for law reform on legalised physical punishment too. I hope for the sake of the children of the world that your politicians remain steadfast in their support for equal protection for children.
Barrister and Human Rights Consultant for Children