No More Spanking
Bona|March 2018

A recent judgement by the South Gauteng High Court has ruled out corporal punishment as a way of discipline in South Africa. This follows a case where a father beat up his 13-year-old son for watching pornography.

Ashraf Booley

The father was found guilty on two charges of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. So severe was the beating that the boy had terrible bruises on his body. Sentencing was, however, postponed for a period of five years

LAYING DOWN THE LAW

In her judgement, judge Raylene Keightley emphasised that the intention behind the ruling was to encourage parents to find more positive ways to discipline their children. So rather than criminally charging parents, the courts would enforce existing intervention services.

The Bill of Rights, criminal law, Domestic Violence Act of 1998 and Children’s Act have long been in place to guard children against corporal punishment. According to the South African criminal law, spanking a child – whether yours or someone else’s – is considered assault. Anyone found guilty of this offence could previously plead the common law defence of “moderate” and “reasonable” chastisement. This means that, in the past, it was then up to the state to decide whether the extent fell outside the lawful bounds or not. But, this is no longer the case. This is because any form of punishment has been found to be inconsistent with the constitution. In fact, this common law defence infringed on children’s rights to be protected from maltreatment, abuse and dignity, according to Section 28 of The Bill of Rights.

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