Posts Tagged child discipline law

Young people urged to vote online on Referendum 09

July 18, 2009

Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) are holding an online referendum of their own and are encouraging young people to log on and vote.

SAVE chair, Johny O’Donnell says: “The time has come for youth to stand up and make their opinions heard on Referendum 09 and SAVE is proud to provide that opportunity.”

If you are under 25 – or know someone who is – please take this referendum survey at:

www.savemovement.org/yesvotevoice.html

“Spread this message, post up on Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and Twitter,” he says. “Let’s get the message out there that young people deserve a say!”

Results will be posted on the SAVE website, sent to the media and to Yes and No vote websites and well as all 121 MPs.

The Bible’s harsh view rejected

July 17, 2009

Dominion Post columnist, Ian Harris, rejects the Biblical instructions on how discipline children and favours a more enlightened view.

Child discipline referendum will not give clarity

July 17, 2009

Press Release: Caritas Aotearoa

Caritas says child discipline referendum will not provide clarity.

Catholic social justice agency Caritas says the upcoming referendum on child discipline will not provide clarity on the issue. “Funding for the referendum could have been better used on family education,” says Director Mike Smith.

Caritas supports the 2007 amendment that was eventually made to Section 59 of the Crimes Act, and wishes to see the legal status quo maintained, regardless of the referendum outcome.

The debate leading up to the law change was always about balancing child protection and family subsidiarity – the ability of families to make decisions for themselves without undue government interference.

“Caritas submitted in 2006 that Catholic social teaching required that both be taken into account. In our opinion, that meant giving greater protection for children, and also defining the threshold for prosecution,” says Mr Smith.

“The final wording of the amendment regarding police discretion not to prosecute for ‘inconsequential’ acts met our concerns. It was also in line with the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference 2007 statement on the issue: Children are precious gifts, which also sought a solution between polarised extremes of the debate at that time.”

Mr Smith says the upcoming referendum will not provide clarity on the question of child discipline, because it is possible to support the 2007 amendment while voting either Yes or No to the referendum question: Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

However, Caritas recognises that in the political context of the referendum, a ‘Yes’ vote is seen to be a vote for the status quo, while a ‘No’ vote is seen to be a vote against the 2007 amendment.

“In this context, we recommend a ‘Yes’ vote, as we believe the status quo is close to the position that we recommended to the Select Committee. However, the wording of the question is so ambiguous, many New Zealanders who support efforts to reduce violence against children, may in good conscience still feel obliged to vote ‘No’. It will be hard to understand what the outcome of the referendum may mean,” says Mr Smith.

He says Caritas will be writing to the Prime Minister and other relevant politicians, expressing concern that the ambiguous nature of the question will result in an outcome that cannot be understood as either supporting or opposing the 2007 amendment.

“We will make it clear that, whatever the outcome of the referendum, we support the 2007 amendment to the Crimes Act. This was the best compromise able to be found at the time which increased child protection, while also taking into account the subsidiarity of families and preventing unnecessary prosecutions.”

Mr Smith says protecting children from physical violence requires action in many other areas, including parental education on alternatives to physical punishment. “In the best interests of families, we would like to see parents able to increase their knowledge of options they have to control their children’s behaviour. That’s where funds could have been better used.”

  • Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 164 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.

Encouragement from a former Commissioner for Children in Tasmania

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.

Best wishes

Patmalar Ambikapathy

Barrister and Human Rights Consultant for Children

Maori Party reaffirms its support for children

July 9, 2009

Maori Party supports rights for children and opposes any violence

Maori Party supports rights for children and opposes any violence

Child discipline law does not make caring parents criminals

July 7, 2009

From the Human Rights Commission

A legal opinion prepared by the Human Rights Commission finds that parents have little reason to be concerned that they risk being prosecuted if they give their child a trivial slap or smack.

The Commission has released the legal opinion to help inform debate in the upcoming referendum on the child discipline legislation.

Critics say the new law creates uncertainty for parents. However the legal opinion says the original section 59 of the Crimes Act was no clearer. It said the use of force by parents “by way of correction” was justified if the force was “reasonable in the circumstances.”

Because “reasonable” was open to interpretation, it led to parents being acquitted for disciplining their children with belts, hose pipes and pieces of wood.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said, “We’re asking that all those with a genuine concern for the welfare of children and their parents provide accurate information rather than creating unfounded fears on this issue.”

The Commission’s legal opinion says that children may not be hit for the purpose of correction, but states: “Section 59 now allows parents (or someone acting in that role) to use reasonable force for a variety of purposes including the prevention of harm to the child” and to perform the normal daily job of providing good care and parenting.

The amendments gave the police the discretion to prosecute. When receiving a complaint, the police can choose not to prosecute if the offence is considered so “inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.”

The Chief Commissioner said the police have used their discretion wisely and are not prosecuting parents without good reason.

Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said, “The real issue is that there should be no tolerance for violence against children, even in the guise of parental correction.”

The Human Rights Commission supported the amendments to section 59 because it meant that no longer could abusive parents charged with beating their children hide behind a spurious defence.

And because the amendments are a significant step in making real the human rights and responsibilities set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC).

Ms Noonan regretted that the referendum question is so flawed that it cannot but provide a meaningless result. “The great shame is that the confusion the question has spawned will result in apathy and cynicism that will undermine still further people’s willingness to participate in New Zealand’s political processes.”

Disciplining dad

July 3, 2009

Scott Kara’s (rough) guide to being a first-time dad on his New Zealand Herald blog

Most of the time, I’m a big softie. But this week, with Incredible Hulk-like tendencies, I turned into Super Domineering Dad by taking a stand and putting the little one into time out for the first time.

I thought I was looking out for her personal safety with my tough and loving stance. Crikey, she’d pulled herself up onto the cabinet in front of the TV, which is a fair-old fall to the wooden floor boards below, and was slapping the plasma screen with glee. It was the third time – in quick succession – she’d done it so what’s a dad to do?

While that might not sound like dastardly behaviour I couldn’t help but imagine that slab of electronic wizardry falling off the wall and squishing little honey lamb into a shrink-wrapped luncheon sausage.

It turns out, I think time out is a miserable failure and my wife and I don’t believe in it anymore. Not that it didn’t work, I just didn’t give it a chance. In fact, I was the miserable failure because my heart caved in to an uncontrollable longing to pick her up, hug her, and wipe those tears dry after shutting that door in her face.

So what do you do to stamp out wilful toddler tantrums and disobedience? Because, as Mr Ear Clip of Christchurch found out earlier this week, times have changed when it comes to discipline.

Gone are the days when mum cracked the wooden spoon on the bench as a threat – and boy, did my sister and I laugh when it broke on one occasion. Then there was the ultimate I-mean-business threat of dad – a far bigger softie than I am – pretending to take off his belt.

So instead of time out I’m resorting to either asking the little critter nicely to do something; praising her by way of coercion; ignoring her and hoping like hell she stops doing it eventually; or – and this is best of all – distracting her (which requires a ball, a puzzle, or, if I’m desperado, a TV show).

But hang on a minute, I thought I was meant to be a parent? I thought I was the one calling the shots?

Maybe I should harden up, stop being such a sook, and stick to my guns.

Then again, no matter what your approach, disciplining a toddler – and a teenager for that matter – is always going to be torture.

Steve Biddulph talks on TV3

July 3, 2009

Listen to John Campbell interview Steve Biddulph on  Campbell Live (TV3 July 2, 2009). Biddulph had earlier spoken at St Kentigern School in Auckland, where he told 500 parents to vote yes in the referendum.

Smacking never worked for me – why I’m voting Yes

July 2, 2009

Geoffrey, who would prefer to remain anonymous, recently wrote to all MPs about his experience growing up in a violent and insecure home. His story supports the Yes Vote campaigners’ contention that smacking can ever be said to be “good parental correction”.

He received replies from Jim Anderton, Catherine Delahunty and Peter Dunn.

Dear MP

I am appalled that there are adults who have no idea of an alternative to smacking a child.

I was born in 1960 and my parents were convinced that corporal punishment was the way to discipline us.

It didn’t work.

The violence escalated until I was insecure at home and at school (corporal punishment at school). In both cases, home and school, I felt I had no recourse and my behaviour got no better as a result of being assaulted by my parents and teachers.

My relationship with my parents was distrust and disrespect right up until I left home. I admit, that once I left home my relationship with my father was better, but there has always been an emotional distance that will never be bridged even though I am 49 and he is 82.

I was married 28 years ago and I have three adult children. These three children have never been hit by their parents and are kind considerate and caring adults, the youngest is 21. In contrast to my own relationship with my parents, they are close to us and seek us out for support and advice.

My oldest son entrusts us with the care of his four month old daughter every weekend, something I couldn’t trust my parents with for my children for fear of their corporal punishment ethic.

Home is a place where a child should feel safe and have no fear where they must feel protected and not threatened – even if they have no language yet.

Smacking is a reaction by a frustrated, brutish mentality in a stressed individual who has no idea of any other approach. To sanction this behaviour, as many religions do, is to allow the brute mentality to take what they feel is the most expedient course of action. Unfortunately, corporal punishment has the opposite effect.

In the 1960s it was considered right to discipline one’s wife with violence, a crime which the police could not take action against because an old law stated a man’s home was out of bounds in domestic incidents.

There were the same cries of outrage by what seems the same people when this exemption to the law was overturned.

My guess is that we don’t want a referendum on the law which criminalises the wife beater, nor should we in the case of the same conservatives who want to be able to hit children with immunity to prosecution.

Keep our children safe!

Yes Vote on YouTube

July 2, 2009

Yes Vote on YouTube

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

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