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Wednesday
Aug192009

Why I Voted No

I have been pondering my vote in the smacking referendum for some time, and finally filled in my voting paper tonight. I will post it tomorrow, just in time!

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

My intent has wavered because I am not happy with the behaviour of too many on either side of the debate, and quite frankly, don't want to be associated with many of them.

Here's why I considered voting Yes:

  • although Sue Bradford's original bill would have removed the 'reasonable force' defense from parents in all circumstances, the law as actually passed only did so for 'correction' - the new s59 clearly allows 'smacking' in other circumstances (safety, offensive behaviour, normal course of parenting, etc)
  • the wording of the referendum question is appallingly poor, and I have to wonder whether this was done cynically by those proposing it - even Sue Bradford (hardly a supporter of this referendum) identified a much simpler and clearer wording of what we all think the referendum question is, and should be "Should the defence of reasonable force for the purpose of correction be available to New Zealand parents?" (interestingly this would invert the Yes/No way to vote)
  • I am very unhappy that the christian aligned organisations supporting the referendum have lost the debate over the language of the debate, and that smacking is now synonomous with violence - while the referendum will probably be 80-90% "No" the language of the debate has been about violence - he who loses control of the language of a debate has lost the debate
  • a close friend is a retired policeman who spent considerable time working in the family violence area in the third world in 1990s - he tells me he only made progress with teaching people that hitting your spouse was never OK when the threshold was zero - there was no level of 'smacking' your spouse that was appropriate - maybe, just maybe, by making the same point about parental smacking of children we might be able to start making progress with those segments of our society for whom the tolerance for acceptable 'smacking' of children is much more brutal than we want to be the case - unfortunately, we're never going to stop child abuse, but maybe, just maybe, we might be able to reduce it

Here's why I considered voting No:

  • I have no doubt that in most cases 'smacking' is done as part of 'good' parenting
  • I am also certain that in most cases where 'smacking' is not 'good' parenting, it is still far short of what most New Zealanders consider criminal behaviour - and even the old s59 would have dealt appropriately with the more extreme cases which are/were clearly criminal (even if there were a few exceptions of juries allowing the defense when most think they shouldn't have)
  • I am not sure what 'correction' means in the context of the new s59 - I think it is synonomous with 'punishment' - ie it specifically disallows 'smacking' as a punishment

In the end I decided to vote No, because I consider that in most cases 'smacking' falls somewhere in the good/bad parenting range, not in the bad/criminal parenting range.

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