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Welcome Amendment To Protect Children

20 NOVEMBER 2006

Welcome Amendment To Protect Children On Universal Children's Day

Children would gain further protection in law, from abuse, if a significant amendment to section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961, proposed in the majority report of the Justice and Electoral Select Committee, is passed by Parliament. Save the Children New Zealand therefore welcomes the report, and the amendment, which was released today on Universal Children's Day.

“It seems especially appropriate that it is tabled today on Universal Children's Day, a day where we celebrate the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which promotes the welfare of the children of the world," John Bowis, Executive Director of Save the Children New Zealand said today.

“The rights of children, their well being and safety are our paramount concern in this debate. It is difficult to determine whether this report fully achieves this. However, we are pleased that the Select Committee have found a compromise that amends section 59 to make it abundantly clear that physical punishment as a form of correction is unacceptable.

"At the same time the report addresses some of the concerns the public have expressed about repeal of section 59 Crimes Act 1961. Many parents will be reassured that provisions such as the Solicitor General’s Police prosecution guidelines, will mean that only those parents who commit serious assaults in the name of correction of children are likely to be prosecuted.

"While the amendment does not constitute full repeal of section 59 and its statutory defence of reasonable force for correction, it could set a new standard of respect for children. It also promotes positive non-physical forms of discipline in its purpose statement and specifically states this change aims to 'make better provision for children to live in a safe and secure environment free from violence by abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction.'

"However, we remain concerned that parents and guardians may still be able to use force in certain circumstances where restraint would be more appropriate. So while it is a step in the right direction, full repeal would bring us much closer to meeting our obligations under the UNCRC. We will continue to promote ending violence against children in our work.

“It is essential in our efforts to respect a child’s right to a life free from abuse and violence, to shift public attitudes and behaviours and to reduce violence over time. The UN Study on Violence Against Children demonstrates the urgent need to address violence in all countries including New Zealand and recommends that states 'explicitly prohibit all forms of violence against children'.

“Finally, Save the Children pays tribute to the hard work undertaken by the Select Committee and the respectful and considered way in which members listened to the broad range of submissions. The discussion itself has been well worthwhile because it has focussed public attention on the serious issue of child abuse. The continued debate on the amendment proposed is essential," John Bowis said.


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