July 2005

Opposition to reform

There is a strong and vocal opposition to reform. This comes in part from some Christians who believe that obedience to parental authority is an essential part of a child's preparation for later acquiescence to God's authority.  Respect for parental authority is regarded as depending on physical punishment.  As long as the physical punishment is - as claimed by such supporters - mild, reasoned and not administered in anger, it is unlikely that people with such religious convictions will be prosecuted if the law changes.

Some Christians believe that physical punishment is prescribed in the Bible in texts such as the famous "spare the rod".  The quotation "spare the rod and spoil the child" comes from Samuel Butler's Hudibras (1663).  There are numerous translations of the Old Testament Proverbs 13:24, such as: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (King James Version).  (Note - not all Christians interpret the rod as an instrument of punishment, some see it as representing protection and guidance.)

With possible change looming, opposition to reform is becoming more organised.  A major advertisement has appeared in at least one newspaper (see Dominion Post, 13 July 2005) outlining the perceived difference between smacking and child abuse and asking readers not to vote for any party that supports repeal of section 59.  EPOCH New Zealand has been asked about the material published by a North American psychologist, Robert Larzelere, who says that the ban on corporal punishment in Sweden has not been effective.