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Studies prove need for repeal of Section 59

Studies prove need for repeal of Section 59

Two new long-term studies that show many children have been subjected to violent physical punishment clearly illustrate the need for the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act, the Green Party says.

"These studies, part of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, show that some parents are not deterred from beating their children so badly it results in long-lasting physical injury and emotional trauma, Green MP Sue Bradford says.

Ms Bradford has a private member's bill before a Parliamentary Select Committee that would end the legal defence of 'reasonable force' in child assault cases. Submissions close on February 28.

Ms Bradford says the results of these studies are very pertinent to the debate around whether to repeal s59.

"The figures show that four out of five children in one study were physically punished, that 45 percent were hit with an object and six percent were subject to extreme violence. These findings bear out all other evidence that New Zealand remains a very violent place for children to grow up.

"While these figures are from the people who were children in the 1970s and 1980s other research would indicate that the figures haven't changed since," she says.

"We just can't go on ignoring the evidence, because of unfounded fears that parents will be turned into criminals for lightly smacking their children. These findings reinforce that it is imperative that we eliminate the anomaly in New Zealand law which gives people a defence of 'reasonable force' when they hit or beat children.

"The fact that violence against children is legal helps to sustains a culture of ongoing severe violence.

"There are many other options for child discipline and, in fact, the results show that children and young people find non-violent punishment like time out, grounding and loss of privileges have more impact on them. This is consistent with what many educators and researchers have been saying for years - physical punishment is actually the least effective in terms of changing what parents perceive as 'bad' behaviour.

"I look forward to seeing the results of the next stage of the study, which examines the long term effects of physical punishment on children.

"These two investigations will be very useful in informing the work of the Select Committee," she says.

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