'Not using physical force to punish children can result in good behaviour'

Ann Skelton, legal representative for the groups against child abuse, says reasonable chastisement cannot be effectively measured and therefore opens a child up to abuse.

Picture: iStock

JOHANNESBURG - The Constitutional Court has heard that positive parenting without using physical force to discipline a child can result in good behaviour.

Organisation Freedom of Religion South Africa (For SA) is appealing the High Court in Johannesburg's ruling which effectively declared all forms of physical correction of children by their parents unlawful.

Last year, a court found a father guilty of assault after he beat his 13-year-old son in a manner that exceeded the bounds of reasonable chastisement.

For SA advocate Reg Willis says parents should be allowed to use reasonable to moderate chastisement to instil discipline in their children.

“That it is not done in a manner offensive to good morals or any other objectives, correction and administration.”

Ann Skelton, legal representative for the groups against child abuse, says reasonable chastisement cannot be effectively measured and therefore opens a child up to abuse.

“It’s about the fact that the parent, in deciding, might make a wrong decision about a big child who has a very sensitive nature, and a small child who doesn’t.”

The groups against the appeal believe better techniques can be put in place to discipline children without using any form of physical correction.

MORE POSITIVE TOOLS FOR PARENTING

Skelton says there are more positive parenting tools available for South Africans countrywide that can be used without laying a hand on a child.

“Parenting centres are able to talk, first hand, about the programmes that they carry out in the Cape Flats, where poor communities are.”

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says while the discipline of children is necessary, a balance must be found that applies to all South Africans and that doesn’t promote violence.

“But because maybe we’re too angry and we have a lot of abuse happening in homes, under this guise or the other, we forget about other critical considerations that must be factored.”

Judgment has been reserved.

(Edited by Mihlali Ntsabo)