Stop smacking children: CRL Commission

05 December 2017 - 14:06
By Neo Goba
Spanking your children in the privacy of your own home is no longer permissable - but corporal punishment doesn't achieve anything anyway.
Image: iStock Spanking your children in the privacy of your own home is no longer permissable - but corporal punishment doesn't achieve anything anyway.

Parents should find alternative measures to discipline their children other than dish out corporal punishment as this results in mental abuse and doesn't create solutions.

That’s the message from the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural‚ Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Commission).

"Children thrive in discipline and they do much better in an environment where discipline is consistent where they are made to understand what is right and what is wrong. I and many other do not condone the physical abuse of children on whatever grounds‚" said CRL Commission chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.

Speaking at a panel discussion at commission’s head office in Johannesburg on Tuesday under the theme "Alternatives to corporal punishment"‚ Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said communities should seek to protect children instead of creating more problems which may have a negative mental effect on them.

"We have stood up against the abuse of children within cultural and religious communities when there was a need to do so and we have taken very unpopular decisions in our quest to protect children. It is in the best interest for a child to have competent parents who are confident in raising them‚" she added.

She said parents‚ extended families‚ religious and cultural communities need to punish children within the confines of the law. However‚ Contralesa Gauteng provincial chairperson Tabane Manene said government has failed to provide alternative measures for parents in rural areas to discipline their children without resorting to corporal punishment.

"As much as they understand that the stance of the government wants to protect children from being abused by the parents and those who are taking care of the children‚ but the government has not provided an alternative that will equate the punishment or a discipline given to the children as a form of upbringing‚" said Manene.

He made an example of what should be done if parents have exhausted every option at their disposal but the child's behaviour does not change.

He argued that courts cannot dictate to society how they should raise their children because cases for families are always different.

This follows a recent ruling by the South Gauteng High Court finding the common law defence of “reasonable chastisement”to be unconstitutional. The now defunct defence allowed a parent charged with assault to make a case for reasonable chastisement depending on the nature of the child's transgression‚ their age‚ gender and size‚ the force‚ object used‚ and the motive of the parent.

"At the end of the day‚ there is no court in my house [that will determine that]. It doesn't mean that by saying so‚ I want to give corporal punishment to [my] child. What is it that is tangible to say 'we have removed the discipline that we have been practicing with what?'" asked Manene.

He questioned whether or not it would be correct for parents to say they are powerless because their child does not want to listen and take instruction from them. Should parents therefore fold their arms and let their child get out of hand? he asked.

According to the SA Council of Educators (Sace)‚ the latest statistics indicate that corporal punishment topped a list of 593 complaints nationally‚ with at least 265 cases. The Western Cape led the pack with 286 of the overall complaints‚ followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 89‚ Gauteng 70‚ Mpumalanga 48‚ the Eastern Cape 29‚ the Free State 27‚ and North West and Limpopo 25 each.

Manene claimed that government did not hold proper consultation processes in communities who have for many decades been practicing cultural and religious discipline‚ which included corporal punishment‚ saying a different decision could have been taken.

He added that there are millions of villages who are not aware that corporal punishment is no longer allowed simply because extensive consultation was not done by government and as a result‚ some parents get prosecuted without knowing that they are doing something against the law.

20 years since corporal punishment was abolished in South African schools‚ many parents‚ guardians and teachers continue to dish it out‚ often for the most mundane of offences.