The current position Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 (“Section 59”) allows parents and any person in place of a parent justification to use reasonable force against a child for correctional purposes. The proposed changes In June 2005, the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Members Bill (“the Bill”) was introduced to Parliament by Green Party MP Sue Bradford. The Bill originally sought to repeal Section 59 entirely, removing reasonable force used against children for correction purposes as a defence to offences involving assault. The effect of repealing Section 59 is that the defence of reasonable force against a child for the purposes of correction would not be available to parents. Instead, the use of force against a child would have the same legal ramifications as the use of the force against an adult. In November 2006 following referral to Select Committee, the Justice and Electoral Committee (“the Committee”) reported back to Parliament recommending by majority that the Bill be passed subject to recommended amendments. The substantive amendment recommended by the Committee does not envisage an outright repeal of Section 59. Rather, the Committee recommends that Section 59 be replaced with a provision enabling reasonable force to be used against children for purposes such as protecting a child from harm, providing normal daily care and preventing a child from doing harm to others. The international position The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (“the Convention”) was ratified by New Zealand in March 1993. The UN Committee on the Rights of Child issued a general comment in June 2006 concerning the use of violence against children. The comment emphasised elimination of Feb 2007 – Apr 2007 Page 3 of 4 © 2007 violence and humiliating punishment of children through law reform and other measures as an immediate and unqualified obligation for ratifying states of the Convention. More than a third of European countries now afford children equal protection from assault including Germany, Norway and Sweden. The Bill, if adopted by Parliament, will be a step towards aligning New Zealand with its commitments under the Convention. Interestingly, United Kingdom legislation is at odds with this trend towards equal protection for children from assault. United Kingdom legislation that came into force on 15 January 2005 allows the assault of children to continue to be justified as “reasonable punishment”. The United Kingdom has twice been rebuked by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child since it ratified the Convention in 1991 for failing to afford children equal protection from assault. Conclusion It is clear that parental rights to chastise children and the rights of children to be protected from violence are at odds with one another. It is also clear that the issues the debate raises are sensitive and topical having received a fair degree of media attention. The Committee received 1,718 submissions on the Bill prior to issuing its report of which 1,471 came from individuals and 248 from organisations. However, it does appear likely that the Bill will be adopted by Parliament in one form or another.