In 2007, by an overwhelming majority of 113 to 8 votes and with the support of the majority of New Zealanders, Parliament granted children protection from assault by their parents. They repealed a 1959 law that allowed physical force to be used for the purpose of ‘correction’ of the child and thereby provided a perfect hiding place for parents who physically abused their children.
The 2007 law is working well but is under threat from an unnecessary and very expensive referendum, to be held by postal ballot over the next 4 weeks.
The referendum has been instigated chiefly by a lobby group called Family First. They claim that most New Zealanders disagree with the 2007 law and maintain that the 1959 law should be reinstated.
The old law wasn’t working though. In fact children were dying from ‘punishment’. In the last few years New Zealand has experienced the most shocking number of child deaths at the hands of those responsible for their care. It’s our hidden shame.
The referendum is worded is such a way that many will vote ‘No’ thereby completely missing the point that it was the ability to lawfully physically discipline our children which allowed child abusers to walk free. The current law is being administered well – the police aren’t hanging around looking for every parent who smacks their child on the hand for trying to poke a screwdriver in a wall socket or grabs them roughly to stop them running out on to the road, in fact the new law allows for these types of situations. Conversely what has happened is that parents who’ve abused their children have been convicted and held accountable.
"Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"
Yes, it should. Violence only begets violence.