The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that corporal punishment is illegal in South African homes.
Ruling on whether the common law defence of reasonable and moderate parental chastisement of children is consistent with the constitution on Wednesday morning, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng upheld a 2017 high court ruling which made it illegal for parents to spank their children at home, dismissing an appeal to the ruling.
The ruling was lauded by Save the Children SA and the Centre for Child Law.
While the Children Institute had argued that the “reasonable chastisement” defence violated numerous children’s rights – including the best interest of the child principle, children’s right to dignity, the equal protection of the law – South Africans seem to be opposed to the ruling, and have taken to social media to voice their opinion.
“I just realised I might go to jail and have a criminal record for spanking my child. I occasionally need to put my son in order every now and then,” said one social media user, while another wrote: “I, for one, [am] against this particular judgment, growing up they used to spank us big time and this helped us to be principled and to have high moral grounds. I still maintain that spanking is not abuse! It is more of a disciplinary measure than abuse.”
Most have argued that not spanking children will turn them into criminals and lack discipline, while others have used Christianity to criticise the ruling.
“As a Christian, our teachings from the Bible is spare the rod and spoil the child. So the constitutional ruling is going against our Christian belief. Spanking is not the same as thrashing a child,” said one.
The ruling was appealed by civil society group Freedom of Religion South Africa (For SA) which believed the judgment would make criminals of well-meaning parents.
The ruling, according to For SA, would have parents prosecuted for assault if convicted. Parents could have a criminal record for abuse, or the children removed from the family home if the court found them guilty.
The society believes there remains a clear distinction between violence, abuse, and mild physical correction.
(Background reporting, Daniel Friedman.)