20 November 2006
Children’s Commissioner reacts to Section 59 report
Children’s Commissioner, Dr Cindy Kiro, has reacted to the Justice Select Committee’s report on the repeal of Section 59
of the Crimes Act 1961 which currently says that parents are justified in “using force by way of correction of a child
if the force used is reasonable in the circumstance”.
“I am glad that the Committee agrees with me that Section 59 has been used to justify child abuse with cases of parents
or caregivers using riding crops or implements to punish children. However, I am dissappointed with the some of the
wording of the proposed majority amendment.”
“It is positive that the Committee have shown a willingness to protect New Zealand children by recommending repeal of
Section 59 but I have major concerns with substituting it with a parental control section which allows the use of
reasonable force in certain circumstances including to ‘prevent the child from engaging in offensive or disruptive
behaviour’ and ‘to perform the daily tasks that are essential to good care and parenting’,” says Dr Kiro.
“Keeping children safe and sending a clear message about not tolerating violence against children would be an act of
leadership by all of our parliamentarians. The parental control section is a response to a percieved risk around
criminalisation of parents. It does not address the fundamental issues raised by this debate.”
“We need to repeal Section 59. Full stop. We don’t need to substitute it with another section that still allows the use
of reasonable force under a list of still unclear circumstances that are open to interpretation. Even though a new
subsection says that force cannot be used for the purposes of correction, I believe that the parental control
definitions will lead to more confusion and argument about what is reasonable and what is not. This must be debated more
fully at the second reading of the Bill.”
“Repeal of section 59 is fundamentally about children’s rights. They are entitled to the same rights as adults. Section
59 discriminates against children. The United Nations has been critical of New Zealand because Section 59 is seen to
violate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that New Zealand ratified in 1993. The proposed changes
will not change this situation.”
“The recently released UN Study of Violence Against Children recommends an end to adult violence against children.
Author Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said ‘There can be no compromise in challenging violence against children.
Children’s uniqueness – their potential and vulnerability, their dependence on adults – makes it imperative that they
have more, not less, protection from violence’.“
“Everyone has been saying that we need to do more to protect our children. It is time to take a definitive stand on
this. Parliament has an opportunity to lead the way by repealing Section 59 completely. It is a fundamental and
necessary step to ensure that children in New Zealand grow up in safe and secure environments free from all forms of
violence. I look forward to future debate and hope that parliamentarians will take a stand and provide emphatic and
clear leadership by repealing Section 59 entirely.”