Fri Dec 09 07:42:17 SAST 2016

Fast-track law against spanking: Human Rights Commission

TMG Digital | 2016-01-22 14:13:41.0

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The Joshua Generation Church must change its stance on corporal punishment in the home within 30 days and the Cabinet must fast-track a change of legislation to outlaw spanking of children‚ the South African Human Rights Commission said on Friday.

Corporal punishment has been prohibited in schools since 1996 and calls for this to be banned in the home have been discussed for over a decade already.

The HRC’s recommendation for a total ban on corporal punishment follows a complaint lodged with the commission by Adriaan and Hannah Mostert‚ Carol Bower and Sonke Gender Justice.

“The complainants objected to a parenting manual published by the Joshua Generation Church (JGC)‚ which used four of its 39 pages to describe the length and thickness of the rod which parents should use in training up (sic) children as young as one-year-old‚” the commission said in a statement.

“The Department of Social Development has so far not acted on their commitment to prohibit corporal punishment in the home. Parents and caregivers still have the right to claim ‘reasonable chastisement’ as a defence against having assaulted their child.”

There are‚ however‚ a number of reasons why corporal punishment in all spaces should be prohibited‚ the HRC said.

These include:

  • South Africa has ratified a number of international and regional human rights treaties which provide for the protection of all citizens‚ including children‚ from assault;
  • A growing body of wide-ranging‚ peer-reviewed research has established unequivocally that even the ‘loving little smacks’ result in a host of negative impacts on social‚ cognitive‚ behavioural and intellectual development. Being exposed to violence as a child has been shown to have a significant impact on the likelihood that the person will use violence as an adult;
  • All adults in South Africa are protected from assault‚ no matter how ‘minor’; children in fact require greater protection from physical violence due to their smaller stature and stage of development than do adults and they are ironically the last group to receive such protection.

The commission report states that the Joshua Generation Church must “provide a written undertaking that it will within 30 days desist from advocating corporal punishment as a means of disciplining children and removes all references to physical punishment from its teaching materials”.

It also adjures Church members involved in presenting its parenting course to take a course in positive‚ non-violent discipline of children‚ arranged and facilitated by the HRC within six months from date of this report.

The HRC furthermore wants the Cabinet to direct the Department of Social Development to initiate amendments to the Children’s Act to prohibit corporal punishment.

“An amendment to the Children’s Act prohibiting corporal punishment in the home has been prepared and is due to begin its journey through the law-making process in early 2016.

"With these findings from the SAHRC providing further impetus to the campaign for the long-overdue prohibition of corporal punishment in the home‚ we urge the Department of Social Development to move beyond words and provide a time-line on when we can expect to see all South Africa’s children protected from assault‚ just as all adults in the country are‚” the commission says.

Hannah and Adriaan Mostert‚ parents and original complainants‚ said in reaction: “It is our social responsibility as parents and members of society‚ to seek non-violent and alternate forms of discipline as a means of imparting a correction or guidance to our children.

"Resorting to violence when you are overwhelmed by a situation is a historically conditioned response to many South African parents. This response must be challenged by members of the public in favour of the child’s right to be free from harm.

"Imparting violence on defenceless children is not conducive to a healthy society as it leads to a vicious cycle of abuse‚ re-enacted from one generation to the next. We are very happy that the SAHRC affirmed that no segment of society‚ including religious organisations‚ is exempt from upholding our Constitutional principles of human dignity‚ respect and equality.”

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