OK, a while ago, I was going to say something about the whole Section 59/anti-smacking thing, and since I actually like to know what I'm talking about sometimes, I went and had a gander at the Crimes Act to see exactly what these sections that everyone was talking about really said. I kind of lost interest in the whole debating thing, but a brief exchange over at Kiwiblog reminded me of some of the fun stuff I discovered during my 15-odd minutes of research.
Under New Zealand Law, it is illegal to throw acid in someone's face. Who knew?
The people in favour of S59 point to Section 194 as the section that smacking parents will be prosecuted under. Well, all this section really does is put a higher maximum penalty on assaulting a child (two years, instead of one for common assault) -- the definition of assault is no different than it is for an adult. The interesting thing is that this section says there's also a bigger penalty for a man assaulting a woman -- strange that this law should still be around in this post-feminism age.
And while adults may have no "reasonable force" defence equivalent to that in S59, Section 60 does allow the captain of a ship or plane to use reasonable force "for the purpose of maintaining good order and discipline on board his ship or aircraft". For when they run out of rum and sodomy, I guess.
Which leads me to Section 93, where the illegality of "piratical acts" is illuminated. Such acts include "piratically running away with" goods, ammunition and the like; "to turn pirate or go over to pirates"; and presumably saying "Arr", owning a parrot and shooting Peter Blake, although that's not specifically spelled out.
And finally, it turns out that the Crimes Act contains a section on "crimes against religion", specifically "blasphemous libel". Note that "It is not an offence against this section to express in good faith and in decent language, or to attempt to establish by arguments used in good faith and conveyed in decent language, any opinion whatever on any religious subject" -- up yours, Jesus!
There, now don't you feel educated?
And as far as the smacking thing goes, I'm not overly fussed if S59 is repealed, simply because all it will do is put children on the same footing as adults, and since the legal definition of assault already includes "threatening by any act or gesture to apply such force to the person of another, if the person making the threat has, or causes the other to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose" I figure there's no big danger there. Yes, it will become technically illegal to smack a child on the bum, but it's already technically illegal to make someone think you're going to hit them (God forbid you should give them two for flinching), so I'm not paying much heed to the claims that our jail cells will be teeming with frustrated parents if S59 were to go.
Is this ideal? No -- simply ditching S59 seems a very blunt solution to a complex problem (how to allow for smacking without also allowing child abuse/how to criminalize genuine child abuse without criminalizing all physical discipline), but it'll do.