Kids Gone Wild: Is It Time to Repeal Anti-Smacking Law?


Part 1 of New Zealand Elections Blog Coverage

As election draws near, discussions on the issues that matter arises in the process. One issue in particular that interests a lot of New Zealand voters is the Anti-Smacking law, and the liberty of parents to discipline their children using reasonable force if they find it necessary.

The law amended Section 59 of the New Zealand Crimes Act, allowing parents who choose to smack their children for disciplinary reasons to be prosecuted for assault.

Section 59 of the Crimes Act says:

* Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of the child is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of:

– preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person

– preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence

– preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour

– performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.

* Nothing in (the above section) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.

* To avoid doubt, it is affirmed that the police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent of a child or person in the place of a parent of a child in relation to an offence involving the use of force against a child, where the offence is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.

Source: http://www.legislation.govt.nz

The amendment came into effect in 2007, courtesy of a Green Party MP, despite the fact that a petition of 300,000 signatories was passed in opposition to it and a national referendum showed that 87% of New Zealanders opposed the said law.

Proponents of Anti-Smacking would always equate naysayers as child abusers who take pleasure at harming their children, when in reality the need to discipline our youth by force stems from a parent’s genuine concern that their child would not become a menace to society.

It has been seven years since the Anti-Smacking law came into effect, and what change in society did it really bring?

A change for the worse, as recent news items seem to show.

In June this year, two stabbing incidents occurred at two separate secondary schools and involved youths below age 18. At Pacific Christian School in Mangere, the victim was a mere ten-year old boy who had gotten into an altercation with a schoolmate – the latter then grabbed a pair of metal scissors and stabbed the victim in the torso several times.

On that same day, two teenagers were brought to MiddleMore Hospital with serious stab wounds. These two students of Southern Cross College were in a fight that involved knives. One of them had deep stab wounds on his neck but thankfully was in a stable condition.

Also on that same month, an elderly shopkeeper in Henderson was fatally stabbed by suspects who tried to rob his corner store dairy. Both of the accused were barely in their teens, one was aged 12 and the other was thirteen.

Indian storeowner Arun Kumar received a stab to his neck by the pre-teen suspects. Both these kids would face trial later this year facing the charge of murder.

Flashback to last year, when the country were shocked at the news that a young Ashburton mom was murdered and then sexually assaulted by an attacker who was only fifteen years old. Sina Solomona was found dead at age 22 in her Ashburton home. Evidence of strangulation was found by medical examiners who also found signs of sexual assault.

If those heinous crimes haven’t made you sick to your stomach yet, wait until you hear of what secondary school teachers have to go through in doing their job.

A report in 2010 stated that the number of teachers filing for ACC-funded treatment for assault has reached the hundreds. These claims have ranged from assault, to stab wounds to injuries resulted from breaking up a fight between students.

In 2010, a kitchen knife was used to stab a teacher in front of his own students by a 13-year old boy for unknown reasons. In June of 2011, a teacher was pounded unconscious by a student he had berated for a hallway violation. And early in 2009, an elderly teacher on the verge of retirement was found dead in her home following a home invasion by one of her former students – who at that time was only seventeen.

These crimes are appalling, the fact that the suspects were so young and had so much to live for makes it even worse. Yet for some reason Labour MP for Mangere Su’a William Sio said that, ‘boys will be boys’, in comment at the stabbing incident at Pacific Christian School 

We cannot have such a loose attitude towards the growing number of youth crimes happening in our nation, these kids are supposed to be our future – the next generation of New Zealanders. Is this really the kind of New Zealanders our politicians would like to see?

It is of course unfair to say that the Anti-Smacking Law was a warrant for these kids to run amok, there are after all thousands more young children who are not subjected to smacking and yet turn out to be decent members of society. The point I am trying to make is that parents have a right to ensure that their children learn values and morals, and they have the right to enforce that with reasonable force if necessary.

The Anti-Smacking Bill does not prevent child abuse, we already have a separate law for that. Instead what the anti-smacking bill targets is the right of parents to discipline their children in a way they see fit.

Calling for the repeal of this amendment does not make you pro-child abuse, in fact the opposite is true, it makes you pro-good parenting.

So far in this year’s round of elections, only ACT’s Jamie Whyte, Conservative Colin Craig and NZ First Winston Peters have included it in their platform to repeal anti-smacking legislation. Current New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, despite being adamantly opposed to the bill when he was leader of the opposition in 2007, has come out saying that he is a supporter of Anti-Smacking and would like to retain it.

We need politicians in Parliament who would be willing to take a stand and ensure that our future New Zealanders grow up to become decent, well-mannered citizens and with good morals. 

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