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Repeal must be accompanied by education

Human Rights Commission

13 July 2006

Repeal must be accompanied by education to ensure safety of New Zealand's children and young people

Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 must be repealed, the Human Rights Commission told the Justice and Electoral Select Committee today.

However, in order to ensure the safety of every child and young person in New Zealand, parents also need to be informed about childrearing practices that do not involve corporal punishment.

"Legal reform is not enough of itself. Government needs to promote positive, non-violent child rearing methods so that children's rights are understood and respected. By building on existing initiatives, parents and caregivers can be supported by the whole community in their crucial childrearing role," said Commissioner Joy Liddicoat.

The Commission was presenting its submission on the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill.

In supporting the Bill, the Commission said it recognised that children and young people not only have the same basic human rights as adults but specific rights that recognise their special need for protection.

"Children are completely dependent on adults for protection and survival and there is a duty on society to ensure their rights are respected. Section 59 sanctions the use of force against one of the most defenceless and vulnerable groups in society."

The repeal of section 59 would help to shape the way parents exercise their rights, responsibilities and duties by more clearly identifying what society and the legislature consider appropriate, Ms Liddicoat said.

"Enacting legislation that outlaws corporal punishment is a significant step in promoting the message that violence toward children is unacceptable. New Zealand's international commitments require it to do all that it can to deter violence against children and create conditions to protect them from violence."

The Commission focused on the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) in its submission as the most important treaty relating to children.

UNCROC recognises the importance of family, tradition and values for the protection and development of children and young people.

However, the Commission argued, culture and tradition do not provide a justification for corporal punishment and UNCROC cannot be interpreted differently depending on the culture of the child or parent.

ENDS


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