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UNICEF NZ Issues S59 Challenge To City Councils


Yesterday (24.Aug. 2006) UNICEF New Zealand issued a challenge to every Mayor in New Zealand:

Lead the way and do what is right for New Zealand's parents and children.
Support the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act.

David Kenkel, the UNICEF Advocacy Manager for New Zealand, said:

‘We are delighted that some City Councils have already acted so strongly to support the parents and children of New Zealand. We congratulate Porirua Council and Waitakere Council on their farsighted community leadership.

We have also just heard the fantastic news that New Zealand's biggest council, Auckland City, have added their support by voting last night to support the repeal of Section 59. We have a great deal of respect for this council's solid commitment to the principles and practices of care for children, in line with New Zealand's obligations to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC).

It is wonderful to see Councils being so committed to the wellbeing of their communities. We want to thank these Councils on behalf of New Zealand's children.

Now we are waiting to see what action will be taken by the other Mayors and Councils of New Zealand'.


(The Email message that was sent out to New Zealand's Mayors and Council CE's follows as body of the Email)

SUBJECT LINE: UNICEF' challenge to community leaders

This is an opportunity for local communities in New Zealand to lead the way

As you may know Porirua city council has already voted in support of the repeal of section 59 of the crimes act. Waitakere city council has issued a statement asserting their support for repeal.
Auckland city council is about to vote on the same issue.

Section 59 of the crimes act states:

'Every parent of a child and every person in the place of the parent of a child is justified in using force by way of correction towards the child if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances.' (S59 Crimes Act 1961)

What is the purpose of s59 of the Crimes Act 1961?

Essentially, to exempt parents from retribution for assaults upon their children if they meet a standard of reasonableness.

What is 'reasonable force'?

It is whatever a judge or jury says it is.

Section 59 has very little to with smacking and much to do with providing legal shelter for people who assault children in painful, dangerous and humiliating ways.
This archaic law has been used in New Zealand to protect adults who've beaten children with planks of wood and riding crops.

International and New Zealand research on children and discipline show that striking children does no good and can do much harm. Hitting children is demonstrated to be the least effective form of discipline and the vast majority of parents who are honest and brave enough to talk about it admit that when they have hit their children it is more to do with frustration, desperation and anger than anything reasonable.

New Zealand needs to be committed to its parents and recognise that parenting is one of the hardest jobs of all. Being a good parent doesn't mean being perfect, but it should mean aiming to do what works rather than justifying and excusing what doesn't work. This law doesn't help New Zealand parents or New Zealand children. It sanctions what's worst rather than encouraging what's best.

The alarmist story that repeal of section 59 will 'criminalise' good parents has been shown by the sensible response of the police to have been the worst kind of scare-mongering. There will be no increase in convictions of parents if repeal goes ahead.
What will change is that we as a nation will do a better job of facing up to what we need to do better.

We at UNICEF New Zealand ask you as community leaders to do what's best for New Zealand's parents and children. Support repeal of Section 59 and send a clear message to parliament to do the same.


A child is orphaned by AIDS every 15 seconds. A child dies every minute from AIDS. Please help UNICEF fight the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS by making a donation today at www.unicef.org.nz or freephone 0800 243 575 (NZ).

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