I voted Yes today

It is a sunny Wellington spring day; I walked past crocuses and the beginning of daffodils to get my ballot paper, and past trees starting to show their spring growth to post it.

I voted yes because I believe smacking children is wrong.

I voted yes because I want to reaffirm that the Christian right do not speak for me. Many many (many) Christians in New Zealand believe, as I do, that smacking is wrong.

I voted yes because countless people gained the signatures of 300,000 voters to give me the opportunity to say out loud what I believe.

I voted yes because I want to live in a country where children are hugged, held, comforted, and raised to be non-violent adults.

I voted yes because I love.

30 thoughts on “I voted Yes today

  1. Me too Anita, i voted yes because i don’t think there is any reason or justification to hit children. They need love, support and cuddles – just like the rest of us.

  2. While I certainly appreciate your right to express your views democratically, I have voted proudly no:

    I am an atheist and the Christian right do not speak for me but understand that smacking and hitting are different things. A smack on the hand is not violence.

    I also voted no because I believe that parents have the right to determine, within reasonable bounds, the appropriate method of discipline.

    I hug, hold, love and raise my daughter non-violently.

  3. kelsey, I have real problems with the argument that ‘smacking and hitting are different things’. I can accept that there’s a difference of degree, but that wording makes clear that there’s a difference of kind. That I don’t accept.

    My view is that boundaries, especially for young children, need to be clear. None of this ‘oh, hitting just a little bit is ok, sometimes’; it’s either ok to hit or it isn’t. Differences of degree can be handled organically – minor breaches within the family or community – not calling the police on your neighbours for a smack even though a technical breach has occurred; just as you wouldn’t call police if your neighbour smoked a joint on his porch one afternoon; but with the recognition that beyond a given threshold, or in given circumstances, more formal measures come into play. That teaches both the principle (hitting is not ok) and the practice (some hitting is worse than others).


  4. I voted YES because children have the same right to live in a violence-free society as I do.

    Those that defend hitting children are lost in some pre-Christian Old Testament world view where it is okay to stone to death disobedient sons, unmarried non-virgins, and adulterers, to name but a few of the “sinners” it states are deserving of death. Christ, on the other hand, brought a new world view where all He asks is that we love one another. Hate the sin, He said, not the sinner. Not an easy task and one we have only just begun even to understand. The law as it stands today is a step in the right direction and while the “Christian” Old Testamenters alongside their violent atheist bretheren will ignore it, their children perhaps will learn and decide not to repeat the sins of their fathers.

  5. BLiP,

    Why do we feel the need to couch our opposition to smacking (or our opposition to those opposed to opposition to smacking?) in religious terms?

    Why is it that the involvement of the Christian right in this debate gets to frame the whole debate in terms of biblical interpretation? Even I, a thoroughly non-credal Christian, had an echo of the New Testament in my post.

  6. BTW – the “spare the rod and spoil the child” maxim doesn’t appear in the Old Testament. It first appears in a poem by Samuel Butler in 1662. The phrase quoted today by the proponents of violence against children is an extrapolation of a series of Proverbs where, in fact, “the rod” is not a lump of wood with which to beat children but, rather, a metaphor for a variety of admonishments, none of which include using violence. Rather, King Solomon exhorts parents to use wisdom.

    Not much chance of that with the “No” people.

  7. Anita

    Wish I knew.

    Today’s arguments remind me of 1986 when the homosexual law reform opponents were mostly made up of the Christian Right. More than 20 years later and they are still insisting on punishing the sinner rather than dealing with the sin. I think they yearn for simple answers and prefer that their lives be regimented by a strict set of exact rules laid down by an authority figure. The changes to society over the last 50 years must be incredibly frightening to them and, in their fear, they forget the fundamental princples of their rules and lash out accordingly.

    Just fifty years ago the Head of the Household could rape his wife and beat his children with Earthly impunity, and could justify his actions spiritually on the basis that the Old Testament and male clergy told him it was okay. Meanwhile secular society began to erode the males’ domain; debates were taking place threatening their position, females were gaining equal rights and even within their own structures, existing pillars were toppling. Catholicism, it turns out, was a refuge for peadophiles and even in politics the Christian Right’s leaders (Graham Capill) were dodgy. How frightening to have your leaders turn out to be mortal like the rest of us.

    Yet, still, the Christian Right is pretty much the last bastion where the Head of the Household preserves any authority simply on the basis that he is male. And, further, us godless, lesbian heathens are trying to take away his right to beat his children. Just who do we think we are!

    The nine years where Aunty Helen was head of the nation’s household, the Christian Right could but splutter at the sidelines and suffer in tingling, scrotum-shrivelling impotence as Helen not only did the job but did it better than any Prime Minister has for many a decade. Now that “look mum, daddy’s home”, its time not only to return to the old, comfortable ways but also to eradicate as far as possible any vestige of Helen’s term. I’m sure you’ve observed the purging from legislation and policy words like “social” and “sustainable” and “equity”. In Daddy’s absence, the children have been naughty and its time we took our punishment, all for our own good, of course. This whole anti-thumping stuff, I suspect, is just part of that attempt to return to the good ole days and forget or rewrite history.

    I note also that conservatives are batshit crazy.

    Well, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

    Since you asked me an impossible question, here’s one in return: in 25 words or less, can you define “political correctness”?

  8. The idea that parents have the right to use force to maintain order and discipline – to correct the child – has in history also justified the beating of slaves and wives and in the current world justified the state using force to silence dissent by physical intimidation.

    Its an apology for authoritarianism – which has and always will be flawed leadership.

  9. Dave

    Thanks for your comment. It had crossed my mind to not bother posting back the voting paper because of the John Key National Government Inc’s statement that the referendum result was meaningless. Given that, I didn’t really want to be play any part in $9 million Monument to McCoskrie Public Onanism and thought I would save the nation the cost of my postage. Then I saw your comment and realised that my vote cancels out your vote. Excellent.

    On my way back from the post office this morning I was wondering if you are ignorant, along with the hundreds of thousands of other frightened New Zealanders, of the fact that the legislation as it stands today actually permits violence against children? Did you know that it is okay to use violence against children provided that it is for the purposes of:

    (a) preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or
    (b) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence; or
    (c) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour; or
    (d) performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.

    Paragraph (d) is the source of much confusion in relation to the wording of the referendum question because “good parenting” is already covered.

    If you’re not ignorant of this fact, perhaps you could trouble yourself to put together some words explaining what other criteria you see as necessary to further protect the right of children to live in a violence-free society?

  10. Dave,

    I don’t even understand your point. As a 37 year old I have a right to live free from violence by my parents, you are arguing that if I was 7 years old I shouldn’t.

  11. BLiP,

    I think your explanation would be called “status strain” in social movement literature.

    That is that the Christian right are struggling with that fact that they used to be considered the pinnacle of moral, upright, aspirational social mores, but now that status is at risk from

    a) the expanding of the definition of the moral behaviour to include previous moral pariahs – for example same sex couples; and
    b) changing moral judgements that makes some of their specialness less special – for example a move away from valuing religion and Christianity; and
    c) changing moral judgements that say that some of their behaviours are bad and wrong – for example saying that good Christian child discipline is wrong.

    So they’ve gone from being recognised as the best of the best to seeing other people overtake them, and being told by those upstarts that they are less than perfect.

    I should write more on this when I have time, not to mention PC in 25 words :)

  12. Anita — No …since you are a female I was brought up to have reservations about physical discipline to you and I continue to believe that. The point is that for the young with limited reasoning ability the smack is a quick way of emphasising disapproval. I would hope that by the age of seven the need for this has largely gone, particularly because females mature earlier than males. As one grows up the penalties society imposes on its members changes, also the practicabilities, so the offender is fined or imprisoned. You seem to be confused between what is abuse and sensible,reasonable discipline.
    I posted my vote yesterday too.

  13. BLIP … when I read the law it appeared to me that the paragraph immediately following what you published negated the previous so the law is a confused ass. Somehow we need to remove the threat to sensible concerned parents wishing to discipline their children so they in turn grow up into sensible and considerate adults. Penalties take many forms and an appreciation of their various forms is an important part of growing up.

  14. jcuknz,

    Are you saying it would be ok to smack a 3 year old boy but not a 3 year old girl? Or a 3 year old but not a 7 year old?

    I think a smack is a quick way of emphasising disapproval, but that doesn’t make it a moral way.

    To take a less emotive example, I have a cat; I can’t reason with him, I can’t explain why he shouldn’t do things, or even what he shouldn’t do. But I have never smacked him even though it would be a quick way of emphasising disapproval and would probably have changed his behaviour. I have used a variety of other techniques to teach him what is and isn’t acceptable, and it seems to have worked.

    My point, smacking may work, but that doesn’t make it either necessary or right.

  15. jcuknz

    Nope. The paragraph you refer to is in relation to flogging children in a cold, meditated, ritualistic manner. Among other detrimental effects to both parties, the application of violence in such a way simply reinforces the child’s determination to, next time, not getting caught. It just doesn’t work. If parents are unable to formulate a variety of punishments that do not involve violence then they are neither sensible nor concerned.

    Reminds me of waiting outside the headmaster’s office for another “six-of-the-best” for having been caught letting down the tyres of a teacher’s car. Two days later the said car disappeared. No one was caught and no one “learned their lesson”.

  16. Hitting a child does nothing to help a child. IMO it is a frightened release from the parent. It doesn’t work. How can smacking a child for just about running on the road help them?

    Is it this – I will cause you pain to show you that I don’t want you to do what you just did, otherwise you might get hurt and experience pain. I reinforce my love for you by emphasing my concern for you with pain.

    Or more like – i got a fright and realised i wasn’t watching you and because I got a fright and got scared i hit you so that you wouldn’t do that to me again.

    We need to front up and admit that hitting a child via a smack or whatever is HITTING them. And i don’t care what the law says i will never hit my boy, even if they legislate to force me to do so.

  17. Anita, Parliament doesn’t think a light smack is “violence” even if you do. If it did there would be no police discretion, and smacking will be included as violence under the domestic violence act. Parliament voted against doing that. So smacking cannot be violence under law.

  18. Police have discretion anyway dave. That amendment was legally redundant as I understand it, good politics but.

  19. Dave,

    a) Parliament considers driving 52 kph along my street to be speeding and they give the Police discretion over decisions to prosecute. Your argument is fundamentally flawed.

    b) My vote was about what I believe, not about what Parliament believes nor about what I think of the current law. Your argument is also irrelevant.

  20. dave, the problem with your assertion:

    I voted NO because children have the same right to live in a violence-free society as I do.

    … is the ‘because’. It implies a positive connection between the condition (children’s right to live in a violence-free society) and the action (voting no). How does the action improve the condition in this case?


  21. Pingback: Kiwipolitico » Blog Archive » A definition of “political correctness” in 25 words

  22. The question seemed a little convulted so I gave it the ‘small child test (ie I asked my 4yr old son):

    “Would it be naughty for me or mummy to smack you?

    He said “yes” and so I voted.

    I did consider just saying “naughty for me or mummy to hit you” (yes I know, poor coversational grammar) but that would be a little leading and I’ve often noted children are much more conssitent than adults. For some reason he thinks smacking and hitting are the same thing…

  23. How does the action improve the condition in this case?
    It doesn’t. Ask John Key. Voting in a non binding referendum does not improve any condition – nor does it make it worse. The action ( voting NO or Yes) – or lack of it ( not voting at all), is irrelevant to the condition of a child’s right to live in a violence free society.

    Anita- Parliament didn’t purposely give police discretion in prosecuting speeding – nor did it overturn a SOP that specifically criminalised light speeding. They did a very simliar thing with smacking when they passed the Domestic Violence Act. Had they included the SOP in the bill we wouldn’t have had the S59 Amendment.

  24. Great viewpoint Jamie…out of the mouths of babes! Yes Yes Yes! Anita I completely agree with you too so thanks for your post along with Marty,Boganette,Lew, BLiP,rOB and SPC!

  25. I’m confused. People who are refusing to vote, is it because Key said he’d ignore it, or because it’s non-binding according to the law? Or is it a combination of the two?

  26. Pingback: Smacking People is Bad – Vote Yes! « The Dunedin School

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