Monday, 5 March 2007

Family Integrity # 134 -- UN interference

Family Integrity # 134 -- UN interference

Dear Friends,

In an earlier email I briefly outlined some of the extreme rhetoric in a UN document released just last June. It is even scarier than what I said about it before.

By way of introduction, remember that NZ has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC). Now there is a UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, a police group of UN bureaucrats who go around to see how well countries are changing their laws to be in harmony with UNCROC. This Committee is composed of 18 people, champions of children's rights from such havens of liberty as Algeria, Burkina Faso, Qatar, Bangladesh and Uganda (see for the complete list).

This crowd produced “General Comment No. 8” dated 2 June 2006, titled, “The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment.” (Read it yourself at .) Note how even in the title they lump corporal punishment in with other forms, all of which are considered cruel or degrading. Now keep in mind that the stated focus of this document, in the title and in paragraph 1, is "corporal punishment". Our Section 59, which is under threat of being repealed by Sue Bradford's Bill, says that parents are legally justified in using "reasonable force by way of correction" which is not the same as punishment, but is parallel with training and discipline.

This document's paragraph 20 reveals that while the UNCROC was being drafted, there was not even any discussion of a prohibition on corporal punishment and that UNCROC Articles 19 and 28(2) do not mention it, even though these are often quoted by the anti-smacking lobby as if they did. But that's ok, the paragraph says, because we must consider UNCROC as a "living instrument, whose interpretation develops over time." Isn't that handy? You can make it say whatever you want it to say and call it a "development."

So when this Committee says, in paragraph 8, "the Committee called upon States to enact or repeal, as a matter of urgency, their legislation in order to prohibit all forms of violence, however light, within the family and in schools, including as a form of discipline," they at first appear to be going outside of the purpose of UNCROC and having a go at discipline, which is not even the same as punishment, and punishment wasn't even part of their original brief.....but all these things now are properly in the crosshairs of the Committee because they've interpreted it to be this way. They do this because they have adopted some very extreme definitions of violence: for example, as just quoted in their paragraph 8: "violence, however light". In paragraph 11 they say, “The Committee defines “corporal” or “physical” punishment as any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.”

This really is a bit of sneaky sleight of hand. Punishment is not defined in terms of purpose or intention, but in terms of force that is intended to cause pain or discomfort, "however light". How light is that? Probably as light as the "violence, however light" that paragraph 8 wants to see all countries prohibit.

To make it clearer, they say in paragraph 31, "The Committee has noted that in many States there are explicit legal provisions in criminal and/or civil (family) codes which provide parents with a justification for using some degree of violence in 'disciplining' children. For example, the defence of 'lawful', 'reasonable' or 'moderate' chastisement or correction has formed part of English common law for centuries. The Committee emphasizes that the Convention requires the removal of any provisions (in statute or common-case-law) which allow some degree of violence against children (e.g. 'reasonable' correction), in their homes/families or in any other setting."

So, the transition from considering only corporal punishment to now including "reasonable correction" as an act of violence against children is complete. When they condemn "corporal punishment" it is clear they now also mean to include "reasonable correction", words that come straight out of our Section 59, in their condemnation, for such things they have defined as violence agaisnt children, however light that may be.

To make doubly sure, they say in paragraph 34, "Explicit prohibition of corporal punishment in their civil or criminal legislation is required in order to make it absolutely clear that it is as unlawful to hit or 'smack' or 'spank' a child as to do so to an adult, and that the criminal law on assault does apply equally to such violence, regardless of whether it is termed discipline or 'reasonable correction'”. And in paragraph 39, "But it should be made explicitly clear that the criminal law provisions on assault also cover all corporal punishment, including in the family."

This time "smacking" and our Section 59's "reasonable correction" are specifically condemned. They say that legal prohibitions of these things is required. Our Parliament is being told what to do by this UN Committee of 18 persons whom we didn't even elect. And they intend for parents to be criminalised by the laws governing assault within their own families, just as Family Integrity has been saying all along.

We must oppose this madness, and I trust each of us is writing regularly to our MPs. For this Committee will not stop simply because Section 59 gets repealed (if it ever does). No, they say in paragraph 43, "It is essential that the prohibition of all corporal punishment, and the sanctions that may be imposed if it is inflicted, should be well disseminated to children and to all those working with or for children in all settings." So they will insist that schools and day care centres and probably any youth group be made to inform children of their rights not to be smacked or disciplined, however light, and what the sanctions against the parents might be.

And in paragraph 52: "The Committee underlines the importance of independent monitoring of implementation, by, for example, parliamentary committees, NGOs, academic institutions, professional associations, youth groups and independent human rights institutions." Youth groups, including the one at your church, and schools will be recruited to monitor how effectively parents are getting the message that they are not to use any form of reasonable correction, however light, for it has been re-defined as violence against children, an act of criminal assault.

Repeal of Section 59 would only be the start. All these other evils will soon follow, just as this UN Committee unashamedly declares. Oh, I left one out, one that will specifically target many Christians. Paragraph 29 says, "Some raise faith-based justifications for corporal punishment, suggesting that certain interpretations of religious texts not only justify its use, but provide a duty to use it. Freedom to practice one’s religion or belief may be legitimately limited in order to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of others." There you have it: the UN declares that it will interfere with your family's religious practises if they happen to include reasonable correction, however light.

Please write your MP today and simply say you do not want to see Section 59 repealed as it will criminalise parents.

Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity

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