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Hitting Kids Should be off the Agenda

UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund)
Media Release
14 January 2014

Hitting Kids Should be off the Agenda

UNICEF NZ is urging Conservative Party leader Colin Craig to look at the reasons for the change to Section 59 of the Crimes Act that occurred in 2007. The wealth of evidence that supported the change demonstrates why two opposing political parties came together to provide improved protection for children.

UNICEF New Zealand Advocacy Manager, Deborah Morris-Travers, said, “The law passed in 2007 granted children their right to legal protection from assault and is a necessary part of creating a culture that doesn’t tolerate violence against children. The law is carefully administered by police to avoid unnecessary prosecutions (with just eight prosecutions since 2007) and there is no need to tinker with it.”

“New Zealand child abuse and child death rates, due to maltreatment and abuse, are among the worst in the OECD and amending Section 59 was just one of a range of initiatives needed to reverse New Zealand’s terrible treatment of children. There is no silver bullet to reverse child maltreatment in New Zealand but appropriate law is part of the picture. The government’s investments in a Vulnerable Children’s Action Plan plus other initiatives are all necessary for improvements to occur,” added Ms Morris-Travers.

Research shows that reducing child abuse requires action on a number of fronts including: increasing understanding about child development and equipping parents with child management skills; establishing a positive view of children and changing attitudes about the acceptability of hitting them; reducing all forms of family violence; reducing alcohol and drug abuse; improving parental mental health, and addressing poverty.

Evidence shows that in homes where hitting is used to discipline children, there is a higher likelihood that violence will escalate and damage children, reinforcing the need for parents to have a range of positive parenting strategies available rather than resorting to violence.

“While there is still much more to be done to reduce child maltreatment, the 2007 law was an important step in the right direction. This together with a range of related and supporting initiatives is essential to uphold children’s rights in law so that they can live free from violence. It may be useful for Mr Craig to speak with social workers, NGOs involved in family support and abuse prevention, and police to better understand the role the law plays in helping to protect children and support non-violent parenting,” concluded Ms Morris-Travers.

- ENDS -

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