More than 1300 books banned by censor

MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 05:00 22/09/2011

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There are more than a thousand books that you will never be allowed to read unless you leave New Zealand.

Many are of a sexual nature, deal with violence, horror and crime and might have only been fully read by one person in New Zealand - and that person decided they shouldn't be available to the rest of us.

A total of 1319 books are banned and a further 728 restricted in some way.

It was up to the Office of Film and Literature Classification and the Censorship Compliance Unit to assess books, films, DVDs and even T-shirts and determine whether they should be banned or restricted.

"It has to include sex, horror, crime, cruelty or violence in some way for us to ban or restrict it," the office's advisor Michelle Baker said.

Items that include offensive language and self harm, risk taking and "suicide issues" can't be banned, but could be restricted.

Some of the titles belonging to objectionable or restricted books included Confessions of a Pimp, Horney (correct) Housewife, Inside Linda Lovelace and A Lesbian Happening.

Baker said the office hardly reviewed its decisions, unless someone requested it to do so.

Books published about homosexuality before it was made legal in 1986 could have been banned at that time and remain so, unless someone had requested they were reviewed.

Decisions on more than two-thirds of the 2047 books restricted or banned in New Zealand were made before 1987.

A book was brought to the office's attention usually by police, customs or the public.

The author, publisher, complainant and interested parties were given 14 days to make a submission, while one of the office's 15 censors started reading the book.

People and organisations could be charged up to $200,000 and sentenced to 10 years in prison if they were found with, or supplied a banned or restricted book.

If a person was found with an objectionable book they could be sentenced to five years in prison, or receive a fine of up to $50,000.

A person who exhibited or displayed a banned book could be sentenced to up to 10 years in jail.

Someone who made a restricted book available to people under the age of restriction could be fined $10,000 or sentenced to three months' jail, and an organisation could be fined up to $200,000.

TO TRAIN UP A CHILD

A book teaching parents how to smack, thump and pull their children's hair was the latest considered for censorship.

The Censorship Compliance Unit assessed the book, written by fundamentalist Christians Michael and Debi Pearl, and decided not to ban or restrict it.

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A spokesman for the Department of Internal Affairs, which the office and unit belong to, said while the book was contrary to section 59 of the Crimes Act, which stated a parent or guardian could not use any force on a child "for the purpose of correction", that wasn't sufficient reason to justify restricting or banning the 20-year-old book.

The complainant could, however, ask that the Office of Film and Literature Classification also investigate the book's content.

To Train Up A Child courted controversy worldwide after a California couple who followed its instructions were convicted of murdering their seven-year-old adopted daughter.

An American child abuse victim, now living in New Zealand, complained to Whitcoulls last month and the bookseller agreed to remove the book from its website.

They also made a complaint to the compliance unit.

The victim said he was shocked to find out the book was being sold in New Zealand, despite the country's anti-smacking law.

"I'm not one to prevent books from being sold, but I think an instruction manual on how to enact violence on your child is a completely different story," he said.

"New Zealand has such a high rate of child abuse and to instruct people on how to do this is just so irresponsible."

- Fairfax NZ

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