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Children’s Commissioner reacts to Section 59


Media Release

20 November 2006

Children’s Commissioner reacts to Section 59 report

Children’s Commissioner, Dr Cindy Kiro, has reacted to the Justice Select Committee’s report on the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 which currently says that parents are justified in “using force by way of correction of a child if the force used is reasonable in the circumstance”.

“I am glad that the Committee agrees with me that Section 59 has been used to justify child abuse with cases of parents or caregivers using riding crops or implements to punish children. However, I am dissappointed with the some of the wording of the proposed majority amendment.”

“It is positive that the Committee have shown a willingness to protect New Zealand children by recommending repeal of Section 59 but I have major concerns with substituting it with a parental control section which allows the use of reasonable force in certain circumstances including to ‘prevent the child from engaging in offensive or disruptive behaviour’ and ‘to perform the daily tasks that are essential to good care and parenting’,” says Dr Kiro.

“Keeping children safe and sending a clear message about not tolerating violence against children would be an act of leadership by all of our parliamentarians. The parental control section is a response to a percieved risk around criminalisation of parents. It does not address the fundamental issues raised by this debate.”

“We need to repeal Section 59. Full stop. We don’t need to substitute it with another section that still allows the use of reasonable force under a list of still unclear circumstances that are open to interpretation. Even though a new subsection says that force cannot be used for the purposes of correction, I believe that the parental control definitions will lead to more confusion and argument about what is reasonable and what is not. This must be debated more fully at the second reading of the Bill.”

“Repeal of section 59 is fundamentally about children’s rights. They are entitled to the same rights as adults. Section 59 discriminates against children. The United Nations has been critical of New Zealand because Section 59 is seen to violate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that New Zealand ratified in 1993. The proposed changes will not change this situation.”

“The recently released UN Study of Violence Against Children recommends an end to adult violence against children. Author Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said ‘There can be no compromise in challenging violence against children. Children’s uniqueness – their potential and vulnerability, their dependence on adults – makes it imperative that they have more, not less, protection from violence’.“

“Everyone has been saying that we need to do more to protect our children. It is time to take a definitive stand on this. Parliament has an opportunity to lead the way by repealing Section 59 completely. It is a fundamental and necessary step to ensure that children in New Zealand grow up in safe and secure environments free from all forms of violence. I look forward to future debate and hope that parliamentarians will take a stand and provide emphatic and clear leadership by repealing Section 59 entirely.”

Ends

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