Families Ignored As Politics Trumps Policy On Smacking Law

Media Release 30 Oct 2017
Family First NZ is calling on NZ First to deliver on their promise of reviewing and fixing the anti-smacking law following comments by the new Minister for Children Tracey Martin who admitted that the law hasn’t worked.

“The ‘chilling effect’ that Tracey Martin refers to still exists for parents who simply want to raise great kids in the most effective way. The demonisation of an effective parenting technique has done nothing to reduce rates of child abuse, instead criminalising good parents. And the confusion around the law and the promises of the politicians to parents has simply exacerbated the problem,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

In a speech in March in Northland, NZ First leader Winston Peters said; “We are going to repeal the anti-smacking law which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children.” He then further clarified his position in an interview on Newstalk ZB saying that this matter should go to a referendum with New Zealand people who are “far more reliable and trustworthy on these matters, rather than a bunch of temporarily empowered parliamentarians.” This position was backed up by Tracey Martin. 

“NZ First needs to deliver on their pledge. The anti-smacking law assumes that previous generations disciplined their children in a manner that was so harmful that they should now be considered criminals.”

A report at the beginning of last year analysing the 2007 anti-smacking law, “Defying Human Nature: An Analysis of New Zealand’s 2007 Anti-Smacking Law”, found that there was not a single social indicator relating to the abuse of children that had shown significant or sustained improvement since the passing of the law. Police statistics show there has been a 136% increase in physical abuse, 43% increase in sexual abuse, 45% increase in neglect or ill-treatment of children, and 71 child abuse deaths since the law was passed in 2007.

“An independent legal analysis at the end of 2014 by Mai Chen of court cases involving prosecutions for smacking found that statements made by politicians that the smacking ban would not criminalise ‘good parents’ for lightly smacking their children are inconsistent with the legal effect and application of the law.”

A survey at the beginning of this year found that a decade on from the passing of the law, it has maintained its very high level of opposition, and two out of three New Zealanders said they would flout the law. An earlier survey in 2011 – four years after the law was passed – found that almost a third of parents of younger children say that their children have threatened to report them if they were smacked, and almost one in four parents of younger children say that they have less confidence when dealing with unacceptable behaviour from their children.

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