You Could Go To Jail For Spanking Your Child In South Africa
The courts have ruled that spanking is unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court ruled that spanking your child is illegal.
The Constitutional Court of South Africa has ruled that corporal punishment is illegal in South African homes. This upholds a High Court judgment from 2017 in the process. The wording of the document has essentially outlawed disciplinary procedures like spanking your child and smacking, causing a divide amongst parents in SA.
Corporal Punishment At Home Banned: Why “spanking” your child is now illegal
Section 12 of the Children’s Amendment Bill is the part of our legislation that is changing. In a brand new addition to the document, lawmakers will seek to put their point in black and white; These are the unambiguous terms that aim to ban everything from light spanking to actions far more sinister:
“Any person caring for a child, including a person who has parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child, must not treat or punish the child in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.” “Any punishment, within the home or other environment, in which physical force or action is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or harm to the child is unlawful.” Section 12A (1), Children’s Amendment Bill.
The Argument Against The Children’s Amendment Bill
While some parents have welcomed the move, other organizations were quick to dismiss the legal amendment. Freedom of Religion (FOR SA) have repeatedly expressed their disappointment with the decision, which has been two years in the making.
“You can be arrested and prosecuted for assault [for smacking or physically disciplining your children] and if convicted, will have a life-long criminal record for abuse of your own children. Not just that, but for a trivial non-injurious slap or ‘reasonable chastisement’, your children can be removed from the family home.” FOR SA
Spanking Banned: South Africa reaches a crossroads
It’s this term – “reasonable chastisement” – that is very difficult to interpret. One person’s tough love could be another’s merciless beating. So the Department of Social Development decided to table this matter to establish a full ban on physically disciplining your children.
The court has previously confirmed that jail sentences will apply in some cases. But the full wording on this matter is not out. The Social Development Department has previously stated this deterrent will not apply to most parents, but only in “severe cases”.
Wednesday’s ruling creates an issue between old-school parenting methods and the new ideas of raising children. With several caregivers unable to use “moderate and reasonable force”, a blanket directive has instead been ratified, and lawmakers hope this ruling will go a long way towards protecting vulnerable children.
Mom of one Cathryn agrees with the judgment, telling the media "How anyone in 2019 can motivate for physically harming children when there is so much evidence to demonstrate the long-term negative effects it has on children as they grow up, is astonishing."
"We’re reeling as a nation from horrendous crime stats and a shocking wave of femicide and child abuse and murder," she says, "where we’re seeing acts of brutality that seems incomprehensible; yet we simultaneously think physically disciplining our children is going to somehow raise a responsible and well-adjusted generation."
"Only a coward lays their hand on a child," Cathryn says, "That includes a child’s parent. There is a myriad of different ways to raise well-behaved, disciplined children. Also to stop bad behaviour in the heat of the moment. Smacking should never, ever be allowed in any form. I’m glad the South African government does extend the protection of our most vulnerable class of society to inside the home."
A parent's choice?
Dad of two Tony said he thinks physically disciplining children is a method that a lot of parents resort to whether it's legal or not.
"My issue is not with smacking your child on the bottom in a controlled manner, without anger. My issue is with a parent getting angry and hitting your child in rage. Smacking them in the head or leaving bruises," he says "should definitely be illegal. But smacking your child on the bum to show them they did something wrong, that should be your choice."
New mom Lize shared that "For me there's a big difference between a light smack done in love. And abuse or violence where the State must step in. I'm disappointed with the decision because parents should decide for themselves what is in the best interest of their children. Because all children are different. As a parent, I would love to have the choice in how I train up and disciple my child."