Friday, May 26, 2006

Hawkes Bay Today rates

The tenor and quality of the various regional editorials is fairly predictable - in this case, fortunately. Here's another well-written and well-informed offering from the Hawkes Bay Today. My response follows;

EDITORIAL: Bradford smacks of UN humbug


One of the most frustrating aspects of MP Sue Bradford's intention to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act (1961) is the extraordinary claim made of it that it will "end the abuse of children".

Add to that the implicit assumption that anyone opposed to repealing the law is far less concerned with preventing child abuse than with the retaining right to beat kids and it is not hard to see why the bill, which would criminalise smacking, has had such a rocky road.

Apart from an irresistible urge to supplant parents by deciding what's best for everyone, motivation for the change has come from United Nations criticism of Section 59 (sufficient reason, one would have thought, not to repeal it).

The UN says our law violates its Convention on the Rights of the Child because parents are justified in "using force by way of correction of a child if the force used is reasonable in the circumstance".

Those who inveigh against Ms Bradford's amendment bill are not a creepy regiment of child abusers but people who worry that the law could define any parent who smacks a child as a criminal.

Unlike its sponsor, many of the bill's opponents probably recognise that while any smacking is regrettable, most of it is not abuse, that in an imperfect world parents do smack (though they may have cause to regret it) and that one simply cannot hope to prescribe in detail how people can, and should, behave.

Most, one hopes, would regard with extreme abhorrence the reality that violence can be found in many homes but would resist the childlike assumption that repealing section 59 of the crimes Act will cure it.

Ms Bradford has now taken a step back, saying her amendment bill should not outlaw "light smacking". Just how that concession might be made is anybody's guess.

She suggested a rewording of the bill or a commentary. How will a commentary assist? The police have already indicated that with the removal of Section 59 they will still be required to investigate complaints about smacking. Neither should any comfort be found in airy assurances that police are far too busy with more important crime than wanting to chase up petty smacking incidents.

Repealing section 59 so that the law echoes the pious sentiments of those who condemn any smacker as a child abuser is not the answer. The bill deserves to wither on the vine; not because nothing should be done about the abuse of children, but for the opposite reason: It will do nothing to make them safer.

It would be more useful (but grab fewer headlines) if Ms Bradford et all directed their energies where they might hope to make a difference.

The complexity of the causes of violence in the home will continue to elude lawmakers for as long as they seize on gestures to maintain the illusion that something's being done.

Ignorant, brutal parents who understand discipline only as beating children will continue to do so ... and allowances will continue to be made for them.

Dear Editor

Your editorial, May 26, re Sue Bradford's anti-smacking bill suggested, "It would be more useful (but grab fewer headlines) if Ms Bradford et all directed their energies where they might hope to make a difference."

NZ research has shown that children from benefit-dependent homes were four times more likely to become subjects of Care and Protection notifications to CYF. Yet Ms Bradford is an advocate of welfare expansion and an avid proponent of the DPB. Politicians should confine themselves to reform of damaging social policies.

Meanwhile, volunteer work in these homes is probably one of the most effective ways of reducing the chance or severity of child abuse. In many cases parents are mistrustful of state agencies. Giving those agencies even more discretionary power, the effect of passing Bradford's bill, would only exacerbate this.

No comments: