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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 March 2007, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
NZ protest to block smacking law
Actors simulate a smacking
NZ parents are allowed to use "reasonable force" on their children
Hundreds of people in New Zealand have held a protest against a proposed law which would ban parents from hitting their children to discipline them.

At least 400 marched to Parliament in the capital Wellington, chanting slogans against the bill, which was due to be debated by MPs.

Another 1,000 marched in Christchurch, the largest city in the country's South Island to oppose the bill.

Some European countries have banned smacking, but globally most have not.

Some protesters carried banners reading: "Don't mess with the family" and "Kids don't belong to the state".

One girl waved a sign saying: "You are not my mum and dad."

Several other protests against the bill have been staged in recent days in the run-up to Wednesday's vote.

The bill is an amendment to the current law, New Zealand's Crimes Act, that allows parents to use "reasonable force" to discipline their children. This provision would be removed from the law.

Poor record

Supporters of the amendment say the current law has been used to acquit parents who were accused of beating their children.

Opponents say they do not support child abuse, but that the changes intrude too far into people's homes.

According to its sponsor, Green Party MP Sue Bradford, the change does not outlaw smacking.

"My bill does not create an offence when parents smack a child," she said recently. "That has been a technical assault for over 100 years."

But it aims to prevent parents who severely beat their children from using the "reasonable force" argument as a defence, she said.

A 2003 Unicef report said New Zealand had the third-worst rate of abuse and neglect of children in the OECD group of developed countries.

PM Helen Clark said the law change would help New Zealand tackle its poor record.

"New Zealand has on its conscience that our rate of child death and injury from violence, including in the home, is appalling," she said.




SEE ALSO
MPs oppose moves to ban smacking
03 Nov 04 |  UK Politics



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