Encouraging updates on status of anti-corporal punishment laws around the world

Today’s opening panel was pretty data-heavy but nonetheless a strong recap of the continuing effort to promote anti-CP laws across the world.

Peter Newell’s opening statements on the overall global perspective showed an interesting combination of both frustration and hope. While Newell was happy to announce the further movements taking place (mainly in Europe), he lamented the many obstacles and overall speed of the process.

“These landmark judgments that have been made already [in the aforementioned 29 anti-CP countries] show how much more could be actively happening if more activism was taking place,” Newell said.

“Nothing is more frustrating (to me) than seeing these opportunites missed through a lack of advocacy.”

Sonia Vohito kept a very upbeat tone in presentation on the recent anti-CP laws passed in Tunisia and Kenya. Her careful analysis on the two very different paths that both countries took to get the laws passed was a fascinating study in the many methods that can be employed to achieve success in this situation. For instance, while Tunisia took a more conventional route in passing their laws with steady advocacy and lobbying over many years to get an anti-CP law passed in July 2010, Kenya automatically included a universal child rights clause in their revised, progressive Bill of Rights when their new Constitution was ratified in August 2010. Vohito admitted that many large obstacles still remained in the process, such as cultural and religious opposition and an overall lack of weak enforcement structure and capability, but remained optimistic about the future of these laws. (She also mentioned that similar laws and revisions were currently under consideration in Cameroon, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Swaziland, and Uganda.)

Beth Wood had an interesting retrospective on how New Zealand was faring four years after their May 2007 banning of corporal punishment nationwide. While she praised the efforts of a long, drawn out campaign which included extensive lobbying and social awareness events, she conceeded that the current results (and overall enforcement) of the new laws in New Zealand were mixed at best. One of the hindrances to the campaign in New Zealand was a bizarre, oddly worded 2009 referendum: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Due to the loaded wording and overall apathy to vote on the referendum by the general public, 89% of the votes were for ‘No’. Wood cited obvious political ploys such as this and other obvious resistances to the law, namely (1) people who think hitting in moderation is effective, (2) people who resent state control of the family, and (3) conservative, Christian agendas. Despite all the challenges that still exist in New Zealand, Wood praised the passing of the law and was confident that the aftereffects of the law being passed were only just beginning to be realized.

It was announced that a fourth speaker, Milena Grillo, had to cancel at the last minute due to personal reasons. Her segment was to be on ‘Success in Costa Rica’.

The morning session was moderated by Joan Durrant, Ph. D.

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