While much of the world goes in the opposite direction, voters in New Zealand put up a public referendum asking to be allowed to spank their children.
The two-year-old law banning spanking is in line with the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of Children, prompted by the deaths of two kids in 2006.
Enforcement has been controversial – the law allowed a loophole for police “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.” When the first father was brought up on charges for smacking his son three times on the bottom, it gave fuel to the fire of politicians who said the government was taking away the rights of parents to discipline.
A referendum this summer drew support for overturning the law from eighty-eight percent of voters, an overwhelming majority (although those are preliminary figures, expected to be firmed up this week).The exact question: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offense in New Zealand?”
But what the parents want might not matter: it’s a “non-binding” referendum, and Prime Minister John Key says unless he sees evidence that parents are truly being unjustly prosecuted, he won’t be making any moves to change the law.
Here in the states, spanking is still A-OK with lawmakers – an attempt to ban corporal punishment in California two years ago (around the same time as the NZ ban) got nowhere. It’s not, however, OK with scientists, who have largely come out as anti-spanking, linking it to a number of problems down the road. Perhaps that’s because the most hard core “the state can’t tell us what to do” parents I know are also the most likely to spank? It seems the squeaky wheel controls the whole issue.
In New Zealand, the squeaky parents are coming out in droves, lest the government stop them. But the question is, stop them from what? According to most reports, only three parents in the ENTIRE country have been convicted on this issue. Three out of more than four million people. Is this really a wide sweeping problem?