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Interest in S59 welcomed, but fears unwarranted

20 February 2007

Interest in S59 welcomed, but fears are unwarranted

Green Party MP Sue Bradford welcomed the interest being shown by the opponents of her Bill to reform the Crimes Act provision that provides an excuse for violence towards children, but said that the fears being expressed about S59 repeal were unwarranted.

"There were 1,200 signatures to the letter opposing my Bill. This a small but vocal group who obviously have access to large amounts of money. The advertising spreads purchased in the weekend newspapers did their credibility no good whatsoever.

" My sympathies lie with the 20,000 or more children - on Police estimates - in family violence situations, and not with the imagined consequences of my Bill upon parental rights, " Ms Bradford says. .

" The opposing groups' major concern seems to be that parents will be charged with assault if they smack their children. This concern is unwarranted. The removal of the defence of " reasonable force' in punishing children is not an attack on parents' rights, but is a necessary step in a complex process of weaning society away from a culture of abuse of children.

"Repeal of s59 will not criminalize parents. Police, as always, will exercise discretion about mounting a prosecution, as their procedural rules require them to do. Only abusive parents have reason to fear the repeal of S59.

" Other countries around the world are making similar law changes to offer children the same protection from assault as adults. Repeal of S59 is a necessary step towards creating a political and social culture which values and nurtures children, rather seeing them as merely the property of their parents.

"Thirty years ago, it was common to regard domestic violence by husbands as a man's right within the sanctity of his own home to 'discipline' his wife. Few people now hold such antiquated views, which were based on the notion of women as property. In time, I believe we will come to see violence against children in the same intolerable light.

"It is time for New Zealand to leave behind the 1970s attitude that belting your kids into submission is the right and proper way to raise healthy adults. As long as we have a law that allows adults to legally use violence against children, New Zealand cannot hold its head high in the community of nations."


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