Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I told you so—again (again)

New Zealand’s anti-smacking legislation is now one year old, and its opponents are still determined to try and repeal it. Despite having failed in their first attempt, they’re still trying to force a citizen-initiated referendum to do just that. Now, they’re running out of time.

The legislation was proposed Green Party MP Sue Bradford. It amended section 59 of the Crimes Act to remove the defence of “reasonable force” for parents who physically discipline their children. In practice, parents could severely beat their children and not face penalty because it was, they said, “reasonable force”.

Most reasonable people would think that defence was absurd and wrong, and should be removed. But the opponents felt otherwise, arguing that “good parents” would be prosecuted for ordinary discipline. It never happened.

Early reviews found a number of cases reported to the police for investigation, but that number has declined over time. No one has been prosecuted under the law. According to NewstalkZB, Murray Edridge, chief executive of children’s agency Barnardos, said that the review clearly shows police are not picking on good parents, and that police and courts are exercising sensible judgement, and using their discretion under the law change. As we’d expect them to.

So, if “good parents” aren’t being hauled into court and sent to prison, what’s the problem? Why are the opponents—the christianist right in particular—so adamant in their opposition?

Some of the opponents have formed a new right-wing, religiously-oriented political party that wants media attention. But among right-wing christianists in general, the act represents a threat to their worldview, that the father has the ultimate authority in determining what happens in the family, and with children in particular (with the support of the mother). Whether they would personally use excessive (and now illegal) force on their children is beside the point. For them, it’s about their authority and their right to not use illegal force.

Which is why no dose of reality will ever be enough to satisfy the opponents of this law. One day, however, they’ll give up trying to force their views on the rest of us, and children will be safer for it.

I also wrote about this in December, 2007: I told you so (again)


d said...

It's the same reason the Pope travels around in a bullet-proof vehicle. Preach/'believe' in one thing, do another. (Whole other topic, but seriously - does no one else question why the Pope is so afraid to die?!?!)

Apparently these right-wing nutters want to beat their children and get away with it! What other explanation is there?

The sad fact in NZ is that a lot of children die by their parent's hands, and the government needs a vehicle in which to punish the offending parents for these deaths.

Arthur Schenck said...

Well, no surprise here, but I completely agree with you. In my post I suggest one reason why the right wing nutters are so obsessed with this. By the way, you do realise, don't you, that by using the word "nutters" in a sentence you're now a fair dinkum Kiwi?