WELLINGTON — A bill prohibiting parents from using physical force to discipline their children passed a key vote in the New Zealand parliament Wednesday.
If it becomes law, parents will not be able to hit their children to punish or correct them. They will be able to use “reasonable force” only to stop children hurting themselves or another child, or to deal with disruptive behaviour.
The so-called “anti-smacking bill” has sparked deep opposition from some parents.
Lawmakers who support the proposed law say responsible parents need not fear arrest for giving little Johnny a tap on the leg for a tantrum at the supermarket. Related to this article
Green lawmaker Sue Bradford, a supporter of the measure, said public opinion is split between those who believe violence can be used against children and those who believe children should grow up without the threat of violence.
Opponents said the proposed law would criminalize loving parents who have the right to decide how they discipline their children, and would do nothing to stop violent abuse.
They warned the measure would allow a “gross intrusion by the state” into family affairs.
Depending on the severity, adults convicted of assault on a child face a range of penalties from a fine to imprisonment. The proposed law change only removes the defence of “reasonable force” from the law but creates no new penalties.
The bill passed a second reading vote late Wednesday 70-51. It must pass a further vote, due in a few weeks, to become law.
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