The Children’s Act may soon rule physically disciplining a child as illegal within South Africa. This change would follow a number of others recently made to the Act, including regulations around unmarried fathers and surrogate mothers.
This law would change Section 12A of the Act, which reads as follows:
(1) 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.
(2) Any punishment, within the home or other environments, in which physical force or action is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or harm to the child is unlawful.
In October 2017, the High Court ruled that parents who smack their children will no longer be able to plead special defense in court when charged for criminal assault, as “reasonable chastisement” was ruled as no longer being in line with the Constitution.
The changes made to the Act would mean that parents guilty of assault must be referred to a prevention and early intervention program. If these means fail, a designated social worker will step in to assess the child.
Additionally, Section 12A would require the Department of Social Development to implement educational and awareness-raising programs alerting the public to the new rules as a further prevention measure.