November 2003

UN Committee report

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child released its observations and recommendations on New Zealand's compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

This report was the second major report responsible for the recent focus on physical punishment of children.  Consistent with observations and recommendations made to other countries the Committee continues to urge New Zealand to repeal legislation that gives legal sanction to the use of physical punishment.

The Committee said:

Committee's previous recommendations
While acknowledging the attention that the State party has given to the implementation of the recommendations of the Committee's previous concluding observations (CRC/C/15/Add.71), adopted following the consideration of the State party's initial report (CRC/C/28/Add.3), the Committee notes with concern that some recommendations have been insufficiently addressed.  The Committee is particularly concerned about the recommendations related to the harmonisation of domestic legislation with the Convention including the age of criminal responsibility and minimum age of employment (para 23), and the prohibition of corporal punishment and establishment of mechanisms to ensure the recovery of victims of ill-treatment and abuse (para 29).The Committee reiterates those concerns and urges the State party to make sustained efforts to address those recommendations contained in the concluding observations on the initial report that have not been implemented and to address the list of concerns contained in the present concluding observations on the second periodic report.

Corporal punishment
The Committee is deeply concerned that despite a review of legislation, the State party has still not amended section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961, which allows parents to use reasonable force to discipline their children.  While welcoming the Government's public education campaign to promote positive, non-violent forms of discipline within the home, the Committee emphasises that the Convention requires the protection of children from all forms of violence, which includes corporal punishment in the family, and which should be accompanied by awareness-raising campaigns on the law and on children's right to protection.
The Committee recommends that the State party:
a)  amend legislation to prohibit corporal punishment in the home

b)  strengthen public education campaigns and activities aimed at promoting positive, non-violent forms of discipline and respect for children's right to human dignity and physical integrity, while raising awareness about the negative consequences of corporal punishment.

The full text of this report can be viewed on
The publication of the Committee's observations and recommendations brought an angry and defensive response from some commentators, including some politicians.  Their response could be summarised "who are these people to tell us what to do and what relevance does this international convention have to New Zealand".

The UN Convention was developed over 10 years of consultation with Governments around the world and with non-government organisations.  It represents consensus on children's rights: what they need to be treated decently as human beings and to grow and develop well.  The Committee are a group of people from around the world with considerable knowledge of issues affecting children and their wellbeing.  They come from a range of professions.  The children of New Zealand and the world would be a lot better off if we took the Convention and those who encourage its full implementation as a source of wise advice rather than to reject it as "foreign".