Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Anti Smacking Bill.
Today Sue Bradford's Anti Smacking Bill is set to comfortably pass its second reading. This bill would effectively repeal s59 of the Crimes Act which permits parents to use reasonable force against children. My position on this issue is exactly in line with Chester Burrows of the National Party who is set to place certain amendments on the table.
My problem with s59 is that it allows parents the opportunity to get away with unacceptable levels of violence against their children. I know people who have disciplined their children far too harshly such as with a belt or stick. I'm even not a fan of the slipper. Any discipline that leaves the child with marks on their body is surely unacceptable, with no place in modern society. So some change is desirable.
However repealing s59 would effectively criminalise parents who simply smack their children. Sue Bradford says it won't: "Repeal of s59 will not criminalize parents. Police, as always, will exercise discretion about mounting a prosecution, as their procedural rules require them to do. Only abusive parents have reason to fear the repeal of S59." However their actions would still be deemed within illegal bounds, and police time would be wasted on a trifling matter. If criminalising these parents is not the intent why can't we just define reasonable force?
Nanaia Mahuta who has come out in favour of the bill says that "there continues to be far too many instances of young people being abused, neglected or killed, and this cannot continue." Certainly she is correct, but how making smacking illegal will help that is surely anybody's guess. She is clearly radical on this issue, disappointed that the bill does not go as far as it had originally, in other words outlawing reasonable force as a defence. Would she prefer that the parent being attacked by an enraged child just take it, and not defend themselves at all?
A smack, delivered occasionally, is a valuable parenting tool. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been on the receiving end of a smack. I deserved that punishment. And it was effective. It shouldn't be overused however because then it simply becomes meaningless and commonplace. Effectively making smacking illegal however would be a disgrace.
In summary let's hope we get Chester Burrow's amendments. We should keep reasonable force but define exactly what that is by outlawing the use of implements, and simply making the only acceptable physical punishment as an open-handed smack.