The Directors of Catholic Social Services around the country have come out in support of repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act.
The directors from Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington and Dunedin met recently in Wellington and endorsed Sue Bradford’s bill which seeks to repeal a section of the law which allows children to be physically disciplined.
The director of ACROSS which is the combined Catholic and Anglican Service, Graeme Munford, said that, as agencies who work everyday with families, they will support any measure which changes attitudes to children in a positive way.
‘Unfortunately much of the debate on the bill has been misrepresented and the fact it was being called by some an anti-smacking bill is in itself misleading.
‘The concern is more about challenging the sense of entitlement to discipline children in any way parents feel they want, Graeme Munford said.
The often quoted ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ justification seems to be used in the wrong context and even if accurately quoted would seem to contradict much of Jesus’ message about caring for children.
‘Agencies recognise that there is much more to child abuse than changing the law. But this bill is not about criminalising parents,’ Mr Munford says. ‘It is about removing the justification to use force to discipline children. Acceptance of this idea may take a broad change in attitudes and beliefs about raising children, and in this case a change in the law seems the most fundamental way to achieve this.’
Much has been said about the importance of parenting programmes, but Mr Munford believes most parents would know how to parent their children properly. As with any legislation which leads to major social change, what is needed is a significant amount of time to pass before the need for change is accepted.
Once the bill is passed Mr Munford believes it is likely to be more a matter of time before people accept that children need to be protected in the same way that adults are.