Womens Refuge: Predictable referendum result on a stupid question

August 22, 2009

Women’s Refuge says the result of the referendum was a predictable outcome due to the phrasing of the question, “Should a smack, as part of good parental correction, be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

Heather Henare, Chief Executive for the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges, says “The result is disappointing, but not a great surprise. The question was framed from the outset to capture a “no” vote.

“Most people believe that firm boundaries for children are necessary and many do not see a smack as a problem. Of course they don’t want to see parents criminalised over this issue.”

“What is being missed is the fact that good parents are not being criminalised under the amended law at all.”

“The referendum question assumes that smacking can be part of good parental correction. In fact, any degree of physical hitting sends a message to children that violence is acceptable. In almost every case, there will be times when those slaps or blows will be harder than they should have been, when anger becomes part of the equation.”

Ms Henare says, “Women’s Refuge supports non-violent, positive parenting. Contrary to popular opinion, this does not mean an absence of boundaries or parental responsibility. There are honest, sensible ways to establish clear boundaries for children that do not involve smacking.”

“We believe the existing child discipline law is an important step towards changing attitudes towards family violence. It would be a great shame if this country were to take a step backwards in that respect and change the law back to allow the physical punishment of children.”

“I have personally spoken with families who have had issues with violence for generations. They have said the law was one of the things that supported their decision to make their home violence-free. They talk of the freedom of knowing that violence towards their children is no longer an option.”

Ms Henare says, “We are calling on the government to retain the current child discipline law.”

A review of the law is due to be completed later this year. Ms Henare says, “That is when we should be evaluating it. I sincerely hope the government will wait for the report and not support changes based on the outcome of this confusing referendum.”

Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

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