Child spank­ing ap­peal

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - BON­GANI NKOSI STAFF WRITER

THE CON­STI­TU­TIONAL Court has re­served judg­ment on the case about whether par­ents should be al­lowed to spank their chil­dren.

Free­dom of Re­li­gion South Africa (FOR SA), a non-profit Chris­tian or­gan­i­sa­tion, has bat­tled it out at the court against the State and chil­dren’s rights or­gan­i­sa­tions against spank­ing.

Reg Wil­lies SC, ar­gu­ing on be­half of FOR SA, told the high­est court in the land that par­ents should be al­lowed to ap­ply “rea­son­able” and “mod­er­ate” chas­tise­ment on their chil­dren.

There was a clear dis­tinc­tion be­tween such chas­tise­ment and abuse, he said.

FOR SA sought to have a high court rul­ing that out­right banned spank­ing set aside.

In the ground­break­ing judg­ment de­liv­ered last year in Oc­to­ber, Judge Ray­lene Keight­ley ruled that spank­ing chil­dren was un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The rul­ing paved the way for de­vel­op­ment of law to crim­i­nalise spank­ing.

Keight­ley was pre­sid­ing in an ap­pli­ca­tion of a Joburg fa­ther found guilty of as­sault­ing his son.

In pa­pers, Michael Swain, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor at FOR SA, said in his af­fi­davit that Keight­ley’s judg­ment was er­ro­neous be­cause it left par­ents with no other way of dis­ci­plin­ing chil­dren.

“Our con­cern is that the judg­ment dis­em­pow­ers par­ents, es­pe­cially those who live in poorer ar­eas in over­crowded ac­com­mo­da­tion who do not have the lux­ury of send­ing chil­dren to ‘naughty cor­ners’ and where there are few, if any, priv­i­leges to take away,” said Swain.

But the State and a num­ber of civil groups ar­gued in favour of ban­ning spank­ing.

In the State’s pa­pers, Nkosi­nathi Dladla, le­gal ser­vices direc­tor in the De­part­ment of So­cial De­vel­op­ment, said chil­dren should be pro­tected from vi­o­lence.

“Chas­tise­ment of any de­gree is un­law­ful; any act that harms a child’s right to be pro­tected from mal­treat­ment, ne­glect, abuse or degra­da­tion is un­law­ful and un­con­sti­tu­tional. The de­fence of mod­er­ate chas­tise­ment is ac­cord­ingly un­con­sti­tu­tional,” said Dladla.

Sup­ported

In an af­fi­davit filed on be­half of Chil­dren’s In­sti­tute, Quaker Peace Cen­tre and Sonke Gen­der Jus­tice, chil­dren’s rights ex­pert Shanaz Math­ews also sup­ported Keight­ley’s rul­ing.

Matthews­said it did not take away par­ents’ rights of dis­ci­pling chil­dren, but re­quired them to change their way of do­ing so.

Math­ews cited a re­cent study that found that 71% of young peo­ple in the East­ern Cape re­ported hav­ing been beaten with a belt, stick or other ob­ject.

“A sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of young peo­ple (27% of males, 33.4% fe­males) re­ported be­ing beaten ev­ery day or ev­ery week.

“Qual­i­ta­tive in­ter­views with young peo­ple re­veal that of­ten such beat­ings are for mi­nor trans­gres­sions and only se­vere beat­ings that re­sult in in­juries get re­ported to au­thor­i­ties, sug­gest­ing that most ex­pe­ri­ences of phys­i­cal pun­ish­ment re­main hid­den.”

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