6 October 2003
UN COMMITTEE MISSES THE POINT ON CHILD ABUSE
In calling for smacking to be banned in New Zealand the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is missing the point. Removing Section 59 of the Crimes Act that allows parents to use reasonable force to discipline their children will do very little to reduce child abuse rates in New Zealand. Why? Because when it comes to child abuse the real issue is not smacking - it is family dysfunction and breakdown.
Christian Heritage NZ leader Mr Ewen McQueen said social research was increasingly confirming what common sense should have told us – take away children’s natural fathers and replace them with stepfathers or mums’ latest boyfriend and you have a recipe for children “at risk”. He noted that an Australian Government report1, estimated the risk of abuse in such situations as being five times higher than where the child lives with both married parents. Another study noted in the same report found that non-biological parents present “a disproportionate risk for children”. Mr McQueen said both the UN and our own political leaders needed to take note of such data.
He stated, “Of course most parents in blended families do a great job in a challenging situation. However as a society we need to face the fact that the new family structures resulting from family instability and breakdown do present a significantly higher risk to our children. That being the case, we should be turning our efforts to how we can strengthen family life, rather than focussing on what form of discipline parents should be allowed to use with their children.”
Mr McQueen said it was unfortunate that many of our political leaders seem obsessed with the smacking issue, while paying scant regard to what built strong family life. Instead in the name of “inclusiveness” and “diversity” they continued to implement policy that actually undermined family life.
He stated, “Whether it be the Property Relationships Act, the Prostitution Reform Act, the Care of Children Bill or the upcoming Civil Unions Bill, the cultural message that many of our MPs champion is the same - all types of relationship are to be affirmed and all family forms are equivalent. Sadly for many New Zealand children the outcomes of “diversity” are proving otherwise”.
Mr McQueen said banning smacking wouldn’t deal with the issue of child abuse. It would simply criminalise thousands of responsible and caring Kiwi parents.
He said, “The real question we must ask is how can we ensure more of the next generation of children grow up in stable two parent families. Public policy that affirms the formal lifelong public commitment of marriage would be a good start.”
“To have and to hold: Strategies to strengthen marriage and relationships” House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra June 1998, pp47.