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Future decision on physical punishment of children

Public education to precede future decision on physical punishment of children

The government has agreed that decisions on changes to the law on the physical punishment of children will follow a public education campaign on alternatives to smacking which will begin next year, the ministers of Social Services and Employment, Justice and Youth Affairs said today.

The government has been considering New Zealand’s legal framework on the physical punishment of children in response to a request from the United Nations. New Zealand is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) and has previously been advised by the UN that section 59 of the Crimes Act, which provides a legal defence for adults to physically punish children, is inconsistent with the Convention.

Cabinet agreed in December 2002 to develop a public education campaign to inform people about alternatives to the physical disciplining of children. Funding for the campaign is contained in the Budget. The campaign is expected to run over several years, beginning in 2004.

The Ministers said the government has now agreed to consider changes to the legislation law on the physical punishment of children once early evaluations of the public education campaign are available. At that time the Cabinet will decide what to do in relation to section 59 of the Crimes Act.

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