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Swedish lawyer to speak on effect of smacking ban

16 June 2006

Family Integrity Press Release
For Immediate Distribution

Swedish lawyer Ruby Harrold-Claesson, coming to New Zealand next month, will be the most qualified person ever to speak in New Zealand on the effect of Sweden's smacking ban on that country's social fabric.

Dr Joan Durrant of the University of Manitoba in Canada has been to New Zealand twice reporting on her research trips to Sweden - all paid for by the Swedish government. Plunket, Barnardos, the Children's and Families' Commissioners, UNICEF, EPOCH and others, who were all happy to listen to Dr Durrant, will at last be able to speak face to face with someone who not only lives in Sweden and speaks Swedish, but someone who, as a lawyer there, deals directly with the interface between the law and its application to society. It appears this interface is savagely chewing up many children and families, leaving a trail of permanent damage. But it is all done in the best interests of the child, they say.

Ruby Harrold-Claesson is also a founder and the Chair of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, a Scandinavian-wide organisation of lawyers concerned about this social damage committed in the name of social good. They receive no government funding. Mrs Harrold-Claesson will be like a voice from the future, giving first-hand reports of where legislation similar to that proposed by Green MP Sue Bradford to repeal Section 59 has led Sweden, a trail New Zealand will hopefully not follow.

Such legislation removes real authority - the kind that can be backed up with force when necessary - from parents and transfers it to the state who can use whatever force it likes. Indeed, in Sweden the numbers of social workers and foster families has had to increase dramatically to cope with the force the state required to be used to implement its non-smacking laws. These do what Bradford, Kiro and the anti-smacking lobby assure us will not happen here: parents are arrested and charged for "minor" technical assaults as well as children being removed from their families.

These laws have also become more stringent in Sweden since smacking was banned in 1979. To further enforce the view that children should have as many rights and as much autonomy as adults, parents can now be charged with "disturbing the peace" of children. We've seen it in the schools in New Zealand: having banned the cane, teachers are now advised not to touch students in any way for any reason apart from dire emergencies, lest they be charged with some kind of assault, physical or sexual. Imagine the psychological harm to both parents and children if parents become afraid to even touch their own children. According to Ruby Harrold-Claesson, this is the situation rapidly developing in Sweden.

Mrs Harrold-Claesson has advised Family Integrity that she is eagerly looking forward to meeting with the heads of as many child advocacy groups as possible.


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