The Constitutional Court of South Africa (ConCourt) has ruled that the common defence of “reasonable and moderate parental chastisement” of children is now unconstitutional. The unanimous judgement was handed down on Wednesday, September 18, when the court ruled there are other more reasonable ways to discipline children.
The judgment has not labelled it as a new offence, as hitting a child has always been categorised as assault under South African law. Previously, a parent who smacked their child was able to raise a special defence of reasonable chastisement while pleading in court.
In one Tweet, a parent said:
— Adv. Langa Bodlani (@LangaBodlani) September 18, 2019
Parents had the opportunity to be acquitted of assault if the chastisement in question is deemed moderate and reasonable.
Wednesday’s ruling follows a 2017 High Court judgement which deemed all forms of physical correction of children by their parents as unlawful. The appeal was brought forth by Freedom of Religion South Africa (For SA), who made the argument that the judgement would turn all well-meaning parents into criminals.
Another parent said:
Spanking/beating is violence. There is no spanking in love, inflicting pain is never a sign of love. Lets get that right kusayimanje unless we want to end up with children who accept abuse as a form of love.
— Ayoh (@ayoh_aya) September 18, 2019
“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) of the Children’s Amendment Bill reads.
This is what other parents had to say:
I thank my parents n teachers for spanking when i was growing… I’m what I am today bcoz of them n i will never spoil my children, I’ll get e best out them. Spare the rod spoil the child. In my house I’m the gvt
— Qondisani Mpofu (@MpofuQondisani) September 18, 2019
Constitutional Court has just ruled that it’s a criminal offence to spank your child.
Coloured mothers after spanking their children be like: “Nou hardloop Constitutional Court toe, dink jy ek is bang?”
— Wesley Fester (@wesleyfestersa) September 18, 2019
Spanking your children is officially illegal in South Africa… I’m about to get arrested y’all pic.twitter.com/BIBpX23xOD
— Lee (@mizzleerah) September 18, 2019
Once again a good decision by the ConCourt, violence is violence, there is no degrees of beating a child, you can’t assault a child and call it spanking. There is no justification to violence against children, we welcome the judgement.
— South African (@MuthuMurema) September 18, 2019
I find it frustrating how many people simply refuse to accept the overwhelming evidence that spanking children does not help them and is actually connected to long-term negative outcomes.
— Sarah Jellen (@ebyrdstarr) September 15, 2019
Many parents, however, have complained that “reasonable chastisement” is difficult to intepret as one parent’s tough love may be considered another’s beating. The Department of Social Development will table the matter to establish a full ban on physically disclipining children.