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Rugby could be the real victim of section 59

Media release from Parent.org

Rugby could be the real victim of section 59 debate.

Parenting lobby group, Parent.org, urges politicians to consider carefully the consequences of Sue Bradford's bill to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act, the "anti-smacking" bill.

"If politicians follow the advice of opponents of repeal and choose to keep or modify Section 59 to define "legal smacking" then they are effectively banning rugby, boxing and other contact sports," states the group's chair, Steve Gore, "unless they enact legislation to offer sports similar protection from prosecution under the Crimes Act".

Opponents of the bill are suggesting that if the Section 59 repeal goes through parents will be criminalised for light smacks or even pulling children back from the road. If this were truly the case then no contact sport could be played as a strong tackle is a much clearer case of assault than a smack and sport doesn't have the protection that section 59 currently gives parents. If parenting can't function without such protection then it is impossible for boxing, rugby, league, soccer, netball, basketball or any sport where opponents regularly contact with each other to continue without similar protection and that would means exhaustively defining each type of tackle or hit.

"The widely applied legal principle of de minimis means that currently those things, such as tackles, which breach the letter of the law but fall within social expectation don't attract prosecution, and this is something that no red blooded Kiwi would want to change, as it would mean the already full rulebook for rugby running to many volumes. Exactly the same thinking should be applied to parents. We expect some parents to occasionally smack their children and prosecutions would follow that expectations. Currently the only service Section 59 offers is as a defence for serious child abuse.

"If section 59 didn't exist our society would be exactly the same as it is now. Given that New Zealand has appalling child abuse and neglect statistics, no MP should be rushing to write or endorse legislation that encourages parents to hit children, which section 59 does. They should be looking for ways to improve parenting, not set in legislation last resort techniques and worst practice, and the opportunity to get rid of section 59 is the first step in that."

Parent.org believes that there is a fundamentally more important reason to repeal the legislation.

"Section 59 is the only legislative direction for parents. In essence it says to the world that we care so little about the skills and knowledge that our parents have that we legally endorse a practice that is, at best, worst practice as no expert on earth would be prepared to say that smacking or physical punishment is the best child rearing method and the one you should try before anything else. Any attempt to modify the legislation to define acceptable physical is making a very clear endorsement of violence as the government endorsed child rearing method."

"The whole argument is getting ridiculous. In reality, good parents smack kids and appalling parents would never dream of touching their kids and this whole issue is such a small part of raising children that it simply shouldn't be on the radar. Our MP's should be focused on how they can improved the parenting environment to help our parents be the best they can, not focus obsessively on the inconsequential."


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