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ConCourt to decide if criminalising corporal punishment at home is wrong

Freedom of Religion South Africa believes that the 2017 judgment which ruled it illegal for parents to spank their children, 'will make criminals of well-meaning parents who love their children and only want what is best for them'.

Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - On Thursday the Constitutional Court will decide if making corporal punishment at home illegal is wrong.

The court will hear an appeal by civil society group Freedom of Religion South Africa (For SA), which believes that the 2017 South Gauteng High Court judgment which ruled it is illegal for parents to spank their children, "will make criminals of well-meaning parents who love their children and only want what is best for them".

The original ruling was widely welcomed as a landmark ruling for children's rights, but not everyone quite agrees with it.

“If you give your child even the lightest slap on the wrist, you can be arrested and prosecuted for assault and if convicted, you will have a life-long criminal record for abuse of your own children. Not just that, but for a trivial non-injurious slap, your children can be removed from the family home. One can only imagine the damage that this will do to families in South Africa," says For SA's attorney Daniela Ellerbeck.

For SA argues that there is a clear distinction between violence or abuse, and mild (non-injurious) physical correction.

For SA is asking the Constitutional Court to find that the High Court was wrong in abolishing parents’ common law defence of “reasonable and moderate” chastisement to a charge of assault, and to set the judgment, which it sees an unwarranted interference with parental and religious rights, aside.