Correcting incorrect “corrections”

Bob McCoskrie of “Family Fist” fame has an opinion piece supporting the repeal of the amendment to Section 59 of the Crimes Act in the Dom Post today. It can be found online too. His piece is in response to a regular column piece by Linley Boniface, whose column is often apolitical but usually runs pretty centre-of-the-road politics when she does swim into the shark tank.

Before we get started, I of course advocate people vote YES in the upcoming referendum to be as clear as possible that they think the law is working and that violence against children is inappropriate. Now, let’s address Bob’s major points one by one, shall we?

Linley Boniface (A question smacking of deceit, June 8) is right on one thing. We should not be spending $10 million on a referendum on the anti-smacking law. But we are for two reasons.
Second, the previous government failed to hold the referendum at the more economical time of a general election because it knew the issue would bring about its downfall. It did anyway.

The government did not have time to hold the referendum simultaneously with the election because the referendum’s supporters missed the deadline due to illegitimate signatures the first time they submitted their petition. Your own fault, Bob- people shouldn’t try to cheat petitions, especially given how often they’re simply ignored anyway. And in case you forgot, this wasn’t even a government Bill, and it would pass almost as overwhelmingly in the current parliament given the same parties have committed to supporting a law that works.

But Boniface needs correction on many other things. A total of 113 politicians did vote for the law – after being whipped to vote that way by Helen Clark and John Key. Phil Goff and Paula Bennett have now admitted they don’t agree with the law as stated.

I think avoiding the truth is bad, Bob. Both of these politicians support the law as it is.

The question “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in NZ?” was publicly notified for submissions in 2007 but there was no opposition from these groups at that time. They never believed that more than 300,000 voters would sign a petition demanding a say on this issue, the majority of whom signed the petition after the amendment was passed.

Nobody thought they needed to object to a question that described the position it supported as “good”, because it was so obviously biased. As it is the question cannot be reasonably interpretted as even opposing the current law no matter how you answer it, as smacking as part of “good parental correction” should by definition be inconsequential- and any inconsequential assualt against a child is explicitly protected under the amended version of the Crimes Act.

At least you didn’t try to defend the question as actually being a meaningful referendum on the Section 59 Amendment Act.

Bob goes to claim studies don’t show harm from light smacking as part of correction, however he seems to ignore studies that show any smacking at all is a risk factor for child abuse- most likely because of the problem of escalation. (a little smack can become a big smack or even a punch easily enough even without conscious intent) There is also the fact that there are many positive parenting strategies that avoid the need for any “corrective” violence at all- why bother smacking children when you can achieve the same results without having to bring violence, however small, into your home?

The law as it stands is confusing. In research done in March, respondents were asked whether the new law makes it always illegal for parents to give their children a light smack: 55 per cent said yes, 31 per cent said no, and 14 per cent didn’t know.

Even 71% of people having a definite opinion about a technicality like a single defense against assualt of children is pretty impressive Bob, even if 55% of the total were wrong.

Meanwhile, the rate of child abuse continues. Sue Bradford said her bill was never intended to solve the problem of child abuse. She was right.

No law change will be a magic bullet, but this law has already resulted in a conviction that probably wouldn’t have gone ahead and will probably result in a Dad that needed some help with his parenting getting it, without spending any time in jail. I’d say even that one result is great, even if this law hadn’t taken part in a sea change on our attitudes to parenting and assault against children.

And you’re out.

So, it’s strike eleventy1 for the beleaguered three strikes law. I can’t say I’m surprised or disappointed, as every evaluation of the practicality of such laws (as opposed to the pure feel-good politics it generates of being seen “getting tough”) has concluded that this law is a terrible step backwards that violates the bill of rights. (Because it’s disproportionate punishment, the same clause in the BORA that prevents torture) Not only that, but it’s been pegged as violating one of the pillars of western justice, (proportional and consistent punishment,) blowing out the budget paying for extra prisons, increasing re-offending and generating more victims, and also presenting a risk that third-time offenders will resort to homocide rather than leave a witness around to testify for their life sentence.

Naturally, “Family First” rubbishes this news, contending that California’s crime rate went down after the law was implemented, and that our crime rate is going up.

Let me address the claim that our crime rate is increasing first: Yes, more victims are reporting crimes. No, the rate at which crimes are committed compared to the increase in population has not had a “real” increase – a lot of the new reports can be attributed to increased public awareness around domestic violence due to the perfect storm that was the convergence of the “It’s Not Okay” campaign with the Section 59 repeal law.

Secondly: I’ll concede that California’s crime rate went down. But correlation doesn’t have to imply causation. California is also one of the most liberal states in the USA, even when it’s under Republican governorship, and it may well have taken good preventative measures in concert with enacting a three-strikes law. Also, most of the side effects of such laws are long-term. I certainly share their optimism that nobody be killed should such a law be implemented here, but I don’t doubt that it will make re-offending worse, undermine rehabilitation, (Which FF probably doesn’t mind as some spokespeople have demonstrated they don’t believe it ever works) and create more victims for only a perception of safety.

Here’s hoping that the debate is ended by National finding a viable way to drop support for this Hindenberg of a law.
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Family First is at it again.

This time, “it” is the new bylaw allowing nudity that is not determined to be indecent on Kapiti coast beaches.

Apparently, a “decency check” is not enough for groups like Family first- any nudity is wrong and could potentially cause innocent children instant psychological harm. One wonders how Bob McCoskrie and the children he is out to “protect” manage at the swimming pool, where theu are no doubt confronted with plenty of penises in just a few minutes while changing. Or maybe nudity is only bad when it lasts long enough, like staring into a bright light. Who knows?

They’re swarming all over the Dominion Post now, too, with angry letters about how one of their opinion editors seemed to think a good test of whether something was morally permissable was to see if Bob McCoskrie opposed it. Good on her.

As far as I’m concerned, it can only do children good to be exposed to men and women who are not ashamed of their bodies, given the unhealthy pressures society piles on to have “ideal bodies”. A little nudity only hurts when you’ve been conditioned to panic at it, as my changing room example might remind you.

Emergency contraception: Free in Auckland

TV3 did a small piece tonight in its main news confirming that the Auckland DHB has followed the Waikato in approving a plan to make the morning-after pill available for free from pharmacies. (They get bonus points for cleverly putting “uh oh” on the pills in their image) This is great news for women, as unlike men they cannot just run away from the consequences of pregnancy, and emergency contraception gives them a little more sovereignty over their own body and makes parenthood something more similar to a choice than a fact of life for sexually active women. This also reduces the likelihood that young women will instead resort to abortions, which is better for both their mental and physical health, and is a little less morally gray.

Family First, as always, is taking a conservative christian approach to this issue and objecting on the grounds that emergency contraception encourages promiscuity, which I find rather disappointing. If a girl was looking for convenient ways to have sex without complications, condoms and birth control pills to prevent ovulation would be much higher up the list of convenient aides to pregnancy-free sex, with the big advantage in the case of condoms of also preventing sexually transmitted infections. This also ignores the fact that encouraging teenagers to use contraception is far more effective in preventing them from having sex.

The morning-after pill is called emergency contraception for a reason- it’s really only useful in an emergency. Suggesting that making it available to people for free makes them more likely to have sex is like suggesting fire extinguishers encourage people to commit arson- the fact is that people will make a decision (whether it’s about sex or arson) based on what they believe, think, and feel is right at the time, possibly ignoring one or two of those factors if they’re not making a large impression. If Family First really wants to discourage promiscuity, they should insist on raising the standard of sex education to make teenagers more aware of its consequences, oppose oversexualisation of (young) women in general media, and encourage child-raising to be reserved for loving, stable families.