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ConCourt ruling on corporal punishment 'could tear families apart'

The ConCourt ruled against Freedom of Religion South Africa, saying the use of moderate and reasonable chastisement, which included spanking, was inconsistent with the Constitution.

Picture: pixabay.com

JOHANNESBURG - Rights group, Freedom of Religion South Africa, said Wednesday’s ruling by the Constitutional Court on corporal punishment was bound to destroy families in the country.

The ConCourt ruled against the group, saying the use of moderate and reasonable chastisement, which included spanking, was inconsistent with the Constitution.

The group escalated the matter after the High Court made the same ruling in a case where a father was convicted of common assault and tried to cite moderate and reasonable chastisement.

Freedom of Religion SA’s argument was that parents should be given the right to discipline their children without the interference of the state.

The group said the judgment was going to have dire effects on families.

Legal advisor Daniela Ellerbeck said: “It’s really serious because, as a result, good parents only want what’s best for their children [and] we could potentially see families torn apart as a result of this.”

Ellerbeck said they had always been against abuse, but they believed punishing children did more good.

“There was a lot of research that we put in front of the court that showed that moderate and reasonable discipline can have positive effects on children,” she said.

The ConCourt insisted the Constitution made provision for other ways of discipline and those should be used.

‘VICTORY FOR CHILDREN'S RIGHTS’

Meanwhile, civil rights groups said the ruling by the ConCourt was a victory for children’s rights as it allowed for adults to be held accountable for their abuse of children.

NGO Sonke Gender Justice’s Wessel van den Berg agreed with this.

“Punishment is not an effective way to parent but if you use positive discipline, things like when a child gets emotional, you give them an opportunity to come down or giving them a time out,” he said.

Professor Shanaaz Mathews, from the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town, said effects of corporal punishment were long-lasting and detrimental to children’s development.

“Children are more likely to be aggressive in their own peer-on-peer [interactions], and we see those young children then are aggressive with their own peers. They use increased levels of fighting and peer-on-peer violence as they get older”

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