July 2005

Childhoods 2005, Oslo, Norway, June/July 2005

A symposium on children's rights to protection from physical punishment was included in the recent major conference in Oslo.  Three sessions focused on research, law and policy and public education.  Presenters from the UK, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, South America and Sri Lanka updated participants on the situation in their countries and shared research and strategies

Peter Newell of the Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children reminded us of much that is relevant to the current situation in New Zealand.  He said: "It is completely wrong and upside down that children should have to wait until last for equal protection from assault".

"We have to move on and the current context of the UN Secretary General's Study on violence against children provides an obvious context for ending legalised violence against children.  States cannot go on pretending that they are serious about children's rights and child protection while they attempt to build child protection systems alongside legal, state authorised and deliberate violence against children in the family, in schools and other institutions and in penal systems."

"Europe is certainly leading in terms of progress towards equal protection for children; at least 16 of the 46 member states of the Council of Europe have removed any defences and gone onto prohibit all corporal punishment."

Peter also discussed the aims of law reform.  "We have to be clear about the purpose of law reform on this issue.  The imperative is to respect children's human rights.  In relation to prohibiting corporal punishment, the aim is to send a clear message, to provide the only safe basis for child protection and the promotion of positive, non-violent forms of child-rearing.  Prosecuting more parents is most unlikely to be in their children's interests, so there needs to be very clear guidance to accompany law reform."

"No more excuses: the context of the current UN study provides the opportunity to move quickly on, to put in the past the idea that states should authorise violence against children and instead focus on giving priority to ending all violence against children.  State governments and all of us have to take a deep breath and stop deceiving ourselves -hitting children is wrong and the law must say so - now."