The South Gauteng High Court ruled that the common law defence of reasonable chastisement is not in line with the Constitution and no longer applies in our law. This means disciplining your child in the form of a spanking is no longer considered legal within South Africa.
How did it come to this?
It has always been considered a crime of assault to hit a child, however, if a parent was charged, they would be able to raise a special defence which said that if the chastisement, or discipline, was reasonable they would not be found guilty.
The special defence of chastisement has been removed by the Court, which was to bring the common law in line with the Constitution. This followed an appeal by a father who had been found guilty of assault because he beat his 13-year-old son. The way in which he beat his son was deemed to exceed the bounds of reasonable chastisement.
The Court said that it wanted to guide and support parents in finding more positive and effective ways of disciplining children. The Minister of Social Development, Bathabilie Dlamini, also agreed that the defence of reasonable chastisement is unconstitutional. The Court said that protecting children was particularly important in the context of the high levels of child abuse and violence that pervade our society.
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