The proposal to ban smacking in Australia is motivated by a commendable desire to reduce child abuse – a desire we all share. But Australian parents need to reject this particular proposal as it will do more harm than good, will have no effect on child abuse rates, and will criminalise good parents raising great kids.
The rate of child abuse deaths in New Zealand have stayed at the same rate as it was before the anti-smacking law was passed, against the clear will of the people, in 2007. Cases of actual child abuse have increased by a third in the past five years.
Six years on from the ban on smacking in NZ, opposition remains as strong as ever. A referendum in 2009 found 87% opposition to the smacking ban, but the results were ignored by the National-led government, who had previously lobbied strongly against the bill while in Opposition.
The ban has targeted good parents, rather than the rotten parents who are abusing their children, and has wasted valuable time and resources of the police and social agencies.
Any claims that a ban on smacking will lower child abuse rates are simply 'hot air'. A recent survey of 1,000 NZ'ers found that only 12% of respondents think the law change has had any effect on the rate of child abuse.
The survey also found that two out of three respondents said they would flout the law and smack their child to correct their behaviour if they thought it was reasonable to do so. Mothers and younger parents were more likely to have smacked. The law is held in contempt by New Zealanders.
Another survey in 2011 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 of parents of younger children say that they have less confidence when dealing with unacceptable behaviour from their children since the anti-smacking law was passed.
The latest review of police activity related to the anti-smacking law also shows disturbing trends, and reveals that almost 600 kiwi families have had a police investigation for allegations of smacking or minor acts of physical discipline since the anti-smacking law was passed yet only 9% of them have been serious enough to warrant charges being laid. The report also referred to an increase in false allegations of assault. This may come from neighbours or even the children themselves.
Let's be quite clear. Child abuse is unacceptable. We must take pro-active action and tackle head-on the difficult issues of family breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse, violence in our media, mental illness, and other key factors identified by the various UNICEF, child agencies, and Children's Commissioner's reports.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is constantly quoted as the driving force for banning smacking, yet clause 5 of this Convention acknowledges the important role of parents in raising a child with appropriate direction, guidance, and correction.
It recognises the right, and duty, of parents to provide direction and guidance in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.
This is what opponents to smacking won't acknowledge. The capacity of a child is very different to the capacity of an adult. That's why we have laws protecting children from sexual involvement and exploitation, driving vehicles, voting, drinking alcohol, the ability to enter in to certain contracts, watching violent and sexually explicit movies etc. That's why we need to train and correct children in a way that is different to how we deal with adults.
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