Wednesday, July 22, 2009

That's news to me, Judy

I never cared much for Judy Bailey’s cloying style as a newsreader, but I think I care for her even less as a children’s rights activist.

Yesterday’s Dominion Post announced that Bailey is the spokeswoman for a well-funded coalition (Plunket, Barnardos, Save the Children etc) campaigning for a “Yes” vote in the anti-smacking referendum. She was reported as saying: “This whole debate was never about light smacking or good parental correction, it was all about the parents who choose to beat their children with jug cords or bits of four-by-two.”

Pardon me? Among supporters of the referendum I know, the referendum against the repeal of Section 59 was never about the right of parents to beat their children with jug cords or bits of four-by-two. Responsible parents who support the referendum find that type of “discipline” just as abhorrent as Bailey does.

The referendum’s backers may have shot themselves in both feet by stupidly appearing to back the right of a bullying father to shove his young son to the ground repeatedly because he didn’t want to play rugby, but that doesn’t alter the core issue: that is, the right of conscientious, caring parents to give children a sharp, corrective smack when they are behaving badly or dangerously, as generations of good parents have done without traumatising or physically harming anyone.

To say the referendum is about the right of parents to use unreasonable force is at best naïve or obtuse, at worst a gross misrepresentation.

The irony is that violent parents who think it’s okay to whack their kids with jug cords or bits of four-by-two will go on doing exactly that, because they don’t care what the law says. We know that, because brutal and sometimes fatal assaults on children have continued unabated, just as opponents of the Bradford Bill said they would.

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