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Who is behind the move to make corporal punishment illegal?

The push to repeal section 59 of the Crimes Act to outlaw smacking is spearheaded by an international organisation called EPOCH (End Physical Punishment of Children), which opened a New Zealand branch in January 1997. In June 2002 they launched a new website at: www.epochnz.org.nz. Both here and on their previous site http://epochnz.virtualave.net/ they claim that "Research continues to demonstrate negative outcomes associated with the use of physical force with children." This is simply untrue.

They state that members of the committee who run the organisation are all professional people with many years experience in a variety of relevant disciplines including, child psychology, social work, law, teaching and social science research. They also say “Since our establishment we have had solid support from many children's service organisations and advocacy groups as well as from a significant number of parents. A list of organisations which support EPOCH is on their site: link   It is important to note that most of these organisations and ‘professionals’ stand to benefit from the proposed vast increase in the number of abused children potentially needing counselling (if the claimed psychological injury is the result of a crime then ACC will have to pay for it), and/or abusive parents needing Stopping Violence courses. One could reasonably conclude that it is the financial incentives associated with this "professional" status which leads them to systematically misrepresent the scientific position for their own benefit.

 

The middle ground?

Mr Bob Simcock, opposition spokesperson for Welfare, has placed a Members bill in the ballot. It is aimed at providing better protection for children under the law by defining what is not reasonable. He proposes that section 59 of the Crimes Act be amended by inserting a new sub-section which says:

"No parent, or person in the place of a parent, may use such force that would result in the child exhibiting internal or external brusing, swelling, cuts, burns, or more serious injuries".

EPOCH New Zealand does not support this proposal because without repeal of section 59 there will be no clear message to New Zealand about children's right to the same protection from assault as other people and the message will still be given that it is OK to hit children.

EPOCH NZ and the National Network of Stopping Violence Services issued the following media release on the subject:

Bob Simcock's proposal to change child punishment law

Beth Wood, spokesperson for EPOCH New Zealand says "Although EPOCH and National Network of Stopping Violence Services appreciates Bob Simcock's efforts to better protect children from being injured in the course of physical punishment Mr Simcock's proposed bill does not go far enough.

Beth says "It might mean that parents who injure their child are no longer acquitted because a judge or jury thinks that marks and bruises are reasonable, but it still fails to acknowledge children should have the right to the same protection from assault as other people in society. It also fails to address the message that we really want to see out there" says Beth. "The message is we want New Zealand be to be the kind of society that does not hit children".

Paul Prestidge spokesperson for the National Network of Stopping Violence Services says ,"How can we promote a society free from child abuse, family violence and violence generally and at the same time say that any hitting is reasonable? It's not just a question of ensuring that injured children are better protected, although this is important, it is also a question of changing attitudes to using violence as a solution to any sort of issue".

Beth adds "I do not believe that partial reform, that is defining what is "reasonable " such as Mr Simcock advocates, will be compliant with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recommendations to the New Zealand Government. The Committee recommends legislative change to ban all forms of corporal punishment". 

 

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