Alexa

New Zealand parties reach compromise to pass 'child smacking' law

New Zealand parties reach compromise to pass 'child smacking' law

New Zealand's main political parties agreed Wednesday to support reforms that outlaw child beating but do not criminalize parents who use "inconsequential" force _ such as a disciplinary smack _ against their children.
More than 1,000 people, mostly conservative Christians, protested outside Parliament as debate on the so-called anti-smacking bill was held, arguing that it impinges too far into the lives of families. Nearby, Anglicans held a vigil in support of the bill, saying it would protect children.
Lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the changes _ which close a legal loophole that currently protects parents charged with child beating _ after the governing Labor Party and main opposition National Party reached a compromise.
Later Wednesday, the bill was passed through committee stages in the 121-member Parliament with 117 votes in favor and just three opposing. One lawmaker abstained.
A final vote is expected before month's end, when the measure is expected to pass easily into law.
The new law will make it an offense for parents to use force to discipline their children.
But under the compromise, police would have discretion "not to prosecute complaints ... involving the use of force against a child where the offense is considered so inconsequential there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution," the bill says.
"Nobody wants to see those parents marched off (for giving a child) a light tap in the supermarket," Prime Minister Helen Clark told National Radio.
"We think we've ... allayed any concern from ordinary, decent parents trying to bring up kids," she said.
Bishop Brian Tamaki, the leader of the charismatic Destiny Church whose members rallied outside Parliament, welcomed the inclusion of the clause that still allows parents to physically reprimand wayward children.
"This is a glorious victory for every good, caring Kiwi parent," he told supporters.
Another leader of the church, Pastor Peter Mortlock, said "a smack is supposed to hurt _ that's the whole idea of a smack," warning that "atheism and socialism are trying to undermine our Christian nation."
Mainstream Protestant churches delivered a letter supporting the bill, saying it closed a legal loophole that had been used to justify the use of excessive force against children.
The bill's sponsor, Green lawmaker Sue Bradford, welcomed the compromise.
"Politicians have the courage to take leadership and say that the right of kids to be protected from violence ... comes before the right of parents when they hit or beat their children," Bradford said.
Former children's commissioner Roger McClay said the new law would reduce violence against children.
"If it saves one child's life that's a great thing," he said.


Updated : 2021-04-14 00:32 GMT+08:00