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Anti Smacking Bill "Working Well"

June 21 2008

It's now been one year since Aotearoa/New Zealand became the first predominantly English-speaking country to give children the same protection as adults against assault.

The Crimes (substituted section 59) Amendment Act was finally passed into law exactly a year ago on June 21 2007 with the almost unanimous support of Members of Parliament.

Save the Children New Zealand Executive Director, John Bowis, says the law change has been a big step forward for children's rights in this country.

"It appears to be working well and, unlike the scaremongering predictions from opponents a year ago, parents are not being turned into criminals."

The first police report on the new law states that there has been no significant increase in the number of smacking events and that no investigations of child assault involving smacking or minor acts of physical discipline have resulted in court prosecution.

The law removed the defence of 'reasonable force' in justifying cases of assault on children. It followed a number of high-profile instances where extreme harsh physical punishment to children was judged as 'reasonable'.

"For the past year, children have had the same rights of human dignity and protection from assault as adults. This is something all New Zealanders concerned for the welfare and human rights of our children can celebrate."

Since then, a further five countries have followed suit bringing to 23 the number of countries to legally ban the use of physical discipline on children. As well another 22 countries are either committed to full prohibition or are actively debating full prohibitionist bills in their parliament.

"It is unfortunate that some opponents of the law are still intent on petitioning parliament to seek a reversal."

John Bowis says the real question petition organisers should be asking is - should children be given the same protection in law against assault as other people?

"The good news is that the answer to that question is clearly yes."


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