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Protect Children From Abuse


Parliament Must Now Follow Through To Protect Children From Abuse

The New Zealand Parliament can be applauded for passing the second reading of the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill, says Save the Children New Zealand's Executive Director, John Bowis.

"The job now is to follow through by passing the bill, without watering it down with amendments, through committee and third reading stages. This is just one important step towards preventing child abuse and encouraging the use of alternative forms of discipline. Seeking to define a light smack misses the point. Physical punishment doesn't work and is often more about adult anger than teaching right from wrong," John Bowis said.

"Save the Children New Zealand funded research by Terry Dobbs, 'Insights', makes it very clear that children do not learn good behaviour from physical punishment. Children surveyed say that the result of such punishment is that they feel unloved, some become angry while others become withdrawn. Children said smacking made them feel angry, upset and fearful – and was not an effective form of discipline.

"It is time to offer further assistance to parents who need support and urgently find ways to reduce child abuse in New Zealand so we can once again be proud of our position in the world as a good place for children to grow up in. It is encouraging to see the favourable voting on the Bill taking us one step further towards achieving this goal.

"In addition to protecting children, passing the Bill will enable New Zealand to meet its international and moral responsibility to uphold the right of children to be protected from abuse. As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child we have agreed to protect children from all types of mistreatment including physical punishment.

"The key message from the United Nations Study on Violence Against Children, released last year, was that 'No violence against children is justifiable. Children should never receive less protection than adults.' Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan went on to say that governments 'should as a matter of urgency explicitly prohibit all forms of violence against children.'

"New Zealand is already well behind the international community in terms of protecting children as shown by the recent UNICEF child well-being report, which placed New Zealand at the bottom of 24 OECD (30 so-called rich nations) countries when it comes to deaths from accidents and injuries per 100,000 under 19 year olds.

"If Parliament does not support the Bill as it stands, New Zealand will not be upholding its international responsibilities. Even more importantly, we will be failing to give children the same protection from assault as adults," John Bowis said.


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