Page last updated at 07:10 GMT, Friday, 31 July 2009 08:10 UK

New Zealand votes on smacking ban

Child on stairs (file image)
The law was seen as a step in lowering NZ's high child abuse rates

New Zealanders are voting on whether parental smacking of children should remain a criminal offence.

The so-called anti-smacking law introduced in 2007 has divided the country, prompting the country's first citizen-initiated postal referendum.

The referendum asks: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

Supporters say the law gives children the same rights as adults, while opponents say it criminalises parents.

The postal vote is open until 21 August.

Parental discipline

However, the result will not be binding on the government.

Austria, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Latvia, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

New Zealand is one of six countries that banned corporal punishment of children in 2007.

The first country to take the step was Sweden in 1979, followed by Finland in 1983 and Norway in 1987.

The aim of New Zealand's law change was to stop people using "parental discipline" as a defence against assault changes.

The move was viewed by many as an important step in combating New Zealand's high rates of child abuse and murder.

The Vote No campaign said the current law had led to "good families [becoming] victims of unwarranted investigations and even prosecutions by police and... Child Youth and Family [government department]".

It said resources were being wasted on investigations into cases that "simply aren't abuse".

Supporters of the new law said babies and children have the same legal protection against assault as adults.

The Vote Yes campaigners said that "positive, non-violent, parenting is more effective than corporal punishment, as well as supporting better long-term outcomes for children and for society".

Confusing question?

However, critics say the referendum itself is confusing and Prime Minister John Key said the wording was "ambiguous".


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But the government believes the current law is working well with police prosecuting only serious cases.

The New Zealand Police reviewed cases of smacking since the 2007 law change.

It said it investigated 13 cases between March 2007 and April 2009 - with one prosecution.

The Vote Yes campaign said such figures showed the law had not led to "mass criminalisation of good parents".

Electoral Enrolment Centre manager Murray Wicks said enrolments were up by 11,600 from November's general election, just topping the three million mark for the first time, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Graphic showing how many countries allow smacking

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