Thursday, August 20, 2009

ZenTiger The right to scream at your wife

The smacking debate is truly tiresome. I will sum up a couple of key points, because a quick look around the blogs and I see many people are distracted with irrelevancies as far as this law is concerned.

1. The government has made all forms of correction technically illegal (s59.2).
2. The government has decided a smack, regardless of how soft, or how infrequent, or how preferable it is to say, being electrocuted (like when a child wants to stick objects into a power point), is a sign of bad parenting and made bad parenting (in this context) illegal.

These two points are really the core of the issue. We can argue if a smack is really bad parenting or not. We can argue for better parenting techniques, and how they could be taught. We can discuss alternatives. We can reduce the frequency. We can educate and train. We can prosecute and lock up cases of real abuse. However, these points have nothing to do with the referendum question, which points out that "bad parenting" (using any form of force for the purposes of correction), is now illegal and the police have the power to prosecute at will.

Imagine if all arguing between couples was made illegal?

We would have some liberal types saying they never argue; it's aggressive and unnecessary and you should be locked up or at least investigated if you happen to have an argument with your spouse.

Many would no doubt point out that an argument can lead to violence, and bring out stories of men beating their wife to death over burnt toast. Maybe they would produce cases where a husband hit their wife during an argument and got let with a good behaviour bond - a massive loophole in the law.

On the other hand, some would cogently argue how a mild disagreement can clear the air, and gives the opportunity for the couple to make up. They might suggest that some minor disagreements, whilst classed as arguments, don't do any material harm to the relationship. It's all part of life. It's all part of marriage. To not have the occasional disagreement might be construed as a lack of healthy engagement in the marriage. They might suggest all couples approach this differently, and to suggest an occasional disagreement is a sign of a bad marriage would be preposterous.

The "anti-arguers" would respond by conflating a disagreement with a violent argument; and demand all disagreements are banned. "You just want to legalise the right to scream at your wife" they would declare. "You are incapable of using other non-aggressive methods to resolve disputes" they announce smugly.

Perhaps they would explain that it is too hard to define the difference between a disagreement and a full on argument. If you raise your voice, that's as good as a scream. If you don't get your point across by screaming, maybe you will throw something? Think of the damage an argument can cause to the children, innocent witnesses!

Do those people really think legislation would be the way to improve communication between couples? Could they not accept that not all disagreements are a big deal? Could they not accept that making all disagreements illegal to send the message that only valid forms of intercourse are acceptable? Because this is the way they have approached the smacking debate.

This is one of the key reasons why I am opposed to such legislation. It puts the State right into the homes of families, and makes a judgment call about what constitutes bad parenting, and justifies it by conflating the mild with the extreme, and by default, at the low end of the spectrum, it's still illegal.

This kind of law is unhealthy for us individually, and as a society. It promotes acceptance of using the blunt instrument of the law to effect changes, yet targets the wrong groups of people.

The husband bashing a wife or child will not be stopped by such a law. A mother incessantly nagging a husband or putting down their child will not be deterred by such a law. But basically good families will be caught on the fringes, accused of bad parenting, potentially being reported on shaky evidence.

Worse, anyone reporting an argument to the police, and suddenly finding themselves a key witness in court, might be tempted to strengthen their words so as not to look like a fool for wasting the courts time.

Do you remember the recent case of a Christchurch father found guilty for hitting his child in public? I note that by the time the sentence was passed, the "abuse" had gone from a clip around the ear to a "punch in the face". If a man punched a child in the face, this would almost certainly result in hospital time. The medical evidence would have been splashed across the front page. Yet, as far as I know, the six police that showed up on the scene spent all their time arresting the father, because there was no need for first aid at the scene. Maybe he was guilty of something more than a smack, but I suspect he was innocent of something less than a punch in the face.

So I'm not arguing for the right to scream at one's spouse. I'm not arguing for the right to beat children. I'm arguing that the State has no right, and will deliver no benefit, by making all forms of discipline illegal.

Think the same law through but ban instead all disagreements between couples. Even if the motive is to produce a world where couples never argue, knowing they are breaking the law, does it really make sense?

Also: IV2 takes stock of his reasons for voting NO.

4 comment(s):

Angus said...

"The smacking debate is truly tiresome"

Ain't that the truth.

Angus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ZenTiger said...

But if good men do nothing, evil will persist.

How are you going on the issue of banning rugby for children, BTW?

ZenTiger said...

How are you going on the issue of banning rugby for children, BTW?

Oops, that comment was meant for Tom, on another thread.

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