Like many around the country I’m sure, I voted in the referendum last night. A resounding YES in my case. Just like most MPs.
When you know the viewpoints of those who collected signatures for this $9 million attempt-to-review-a-law-which-continues-to-work-well-waste-of-money, voting anything else, even given the deliberately confusing question, just doesn’t work for me.
At the time Section 59 was repealed, I worked for an organisation, Women’s Refuge, that supported repeal. And, together with many other organisations, campaigned accordingly. Despite all the rhetoric of those in favour of being able to physically punish their children, there is a resounding consensus from community organisations, the vast majority of church groups, and everyone who has anything to do with family violence, that repealing a defence to hit kids is worthwhile.
Reasons to be cynical about this referendum are so many as to cause even your ordinarily naive writer to shake her head.
We have Family Integrity, one of the supporters of law change back to the good old days, releasing a pamphlet to the public which calls children “little bundles of depravity” and advocates using a smacking rod.
Apparently, if children are still angry after you smack, you haven’t hit them hard enough.
That’s right, nothing to do with criminalising good kiwi parents at all – who, lets face it, haven’t been criminalised – just honest-to-god joy in using your “smacking rod” until your child has no resistance left.
I’m not the only one who sees a hidden agenda in those backing the referendum. John Roughan says:
The ritual thrashings that children used to receive “when your father comes home”, may be rare today but not in some sections of society we hear.
Those who initiated the referendum know what the new law says. They know it permits reasonable force for all the preventive situations they are fond of citing.
They pretend it does not because they could not attract majority support for the restoration of the right to flog children. Don’t be deceived by them.
If an overwhelming bulk of New Zealanders vote no then what that should do, I think, is give Parliament the strength of courage to change the law if it starts not working.
Surely if a law isn’t working, that is what Parliament is for? Surely no “giving the strength of courage” is necessary?
The law is working according to the Deputy Police Commissioner Robe Pope. It’s still being reviewed, and he says:
This latest review again shows the amendment has had minimal impact on police activity. It continues to be business as usual for us and police continue to use their discretion and common sense in their decision making around child assault events.
By all means keep it under review – watching what the Police do is important – as is having the “strength of courage” to stand up and say children are not little bundles of depravity, and deserve the chance to be free of violence, just like everyone else.
You can see the arguments made by Barnardos and Save The Children here: