The recent ruling against corporal punishment by parents on their children in homes, has gotten South Africans talking, the subject has become the talk of town, on radios, newspapers, and social media.
The judgement by the Constitutional Court outlawed and forbade parents from disciplining their children by hitting them, and the ruling, has created two camps, among South Africans, one in support of it, while others are against it.
The hot question is should parents just watch as their children go haywire?
Meanwhile, the law has no mercy, it is stubborn as some would say. “If you lift a finger to your child, you could be in big trouble,” read the theme of the judgement.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR FAMILIES
Simply put; if you hit, smack, spank or use any form of physical force against your child, you would have crossed the line and the law would deal with you.
Constitutional law expert Professor Pierre de Vos said the judgment has made it illegal for parents to hit their kids as a form of disciplining them.
“Parents must find other ways to discipline their children. If they do use corporal punishment, they now run the risk of being prosecuted and punished for assaulting their children,” he said.
Since 2000, corporal punishment had been outlawed in schools. The issue came under scrutiny in 2017 when a case was filed before the high court in Johannesburg against it.
In an attempt to reverse a conviction for assaulting his 13-year-old son, a father once argued he’d been administering ‘moderate and reasonable chastisement,' but the law is adamant so to speak. No to corporal punishment, full stop.
Civil society group Freedom of Religion SA (FOR SA) opposed the ruling, taking the matter to the Constitutional Court, which rubber stamped the ruling instead.
“Corporal punishment will now be treated by the law like any other case of alleged assault.
“Parents who are prosecuted and found guilty of assaulting their children will have a criminal record and will be given a fine or probably a suspended sentence,” De Vos said.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
While De Vos is hailing the court’s decision because it’s in line with the Constitution, FOR SA, are against the ruling, saying it will ‘cripple’ parents’ rights.
“It is disturbing that the right of parents to raise their children according to their own convictions and what they believe to be in the best interests of their children, has not been upheld,” said Daniela Ellerbeck, FOR SA’s attorney.
Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, founder and leader of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), believes parents have “a God-given right” to raise their kids as they see fit.
While Meshoe is of the notion that there’s a risk that some parents might take corporal punishment too far, he points out that most parents use this form of discipline moderately, motivated by a noble desire to help their children.
He maintained that as a father he has noticed that there’s no other method of discipline that works as effectively as ‘moderately applied corporal punishment.’
“My children aren’t angry [about having been disciplined in this manner], they love their parents and thank us for using it on them, and they’re using it on their own children,” he said.
However, there are some who differ with him.
In 2018, the American Academy of Paediatrics was vocal against the practice, alleging it “harms children,” doesn’t change their behaviour for the better, but instead, may make them more aggressive later in life.
Renowned South African educationist Professor Jonathan Jansen warned it’s a myth that spanking is an effective form of disciplining children.
Writing recently in a column for TimesLive, he said that while corporal punishment may be effective in getting a kid to do whatever it is their parents want them to do at that particular moment, it traps the adult into a vicious cycle where they have to continual use of violence to assert their authority.
“In the process you are teaching your child a powerful lesson: that if you cannot get your way (as a parent in this case), you resort to violence,” said Jansen, who’s a professor at Stellenbosch University’s faculty of education.
In the same school of thought is Marlizel, a clinical psychologist from Klerksdorp in North West; “Parents tend to project their own anger on their children by ways of spanking the child. By spanking a child, hostility and aggressive behaviour is modelled to the child as a way of handling conflict.”
Popular KwaZulu-Natal blogger Don Dinnematin highlighted that it’s hypocritical for parents to speak about the scourge of gender-based violence when behind closed doors at home they’re meting out corporal punishment to their own sons and daughters.
“As a father, I’ve made a conscious decision that I’ll never use violence as a form to discipline my daughter. She needs to know that no matter what, it’s never OK for a male to hit her,” he said.
This does not mean, he gives her daughter the free will to whatever she desires.
“Don’t get me wrong, I do discipline my children, but there are many other forms of discipline that do not require violence,” Don said.
He maintained that one major lesson that South African parents have to teach their kids is that violence is never acceptable.
“This simple understanding starts right here in our home.
“Raise your children in such a way that they’re educated and taught that violence is never the answer. Then, only then, will we see the change we so badly desire in this country,” he added.
As many experts put it, parents must find other ways to discipline their kids, other than corporal punishment.