South Africa’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday upheld a South Gauteng High Court ruling declaring corporal punishment at home unconstitutional.
In a unanimous judgment, the ConCourt ruled that the common law defense of reasonable and moderate parental chastisement of children is unconstitutional. The court said it was of the view that there are effective ways to discipline children without the use of corporal punishment
The case landed in the ConCourt after the high court in 2017 found the defense of reasonable chastisement to be unconstitutional in a matter related to a father who had been found guilty of assaulting his 13-year old son for watching pornography.
The high court found that the defense that allows parents to physically discipline their children violates children’s rights and that the protection of children from all forms of violence is critical in our context of alarmingly high levels of violence against children.
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) then sought to have a high court ruling set aside arguing that there was a clear distinction between such chastisement and abuse and parents should be allowed to apply “reasonable” and “moderate” chastisement on their children.
But the State and a number of civil groups argued in favour of banning spanking.
Nkosinathi Dladla, legal services director in the social development department, said children should be protected from violence.
“Any act that harms a child’s right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation is unlawful and unconstitutional.
Tuesday’s Constitutional Court ruling paves the way for development of law to criminalise spanking.