The Constitutional Court on Tuesday upheld a South Gauteng High Court ruling declaring corporal punishment at home unconstitutional. Here's what the respondents and amici curiae in the case of Freedom of Religion South Africa v Minister of Justice & Constitutional Development & others have to say after the landmark judgment:
We welcome the judgment that was handed down by the Constitutional Court on the constitutionality of the use of corporal punishment in the home. The common law defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ has been declared inconsistent with the Constitution. The defence previously allowed parents to hit their children with the justification of corporal punishment being a form of discipline as a defense to a charge of assault.
The Court found that the right to be free from all forms of violence from both public and private sources includes violence in the form of reasonable and moderate chastisement. Furthermore, the Court found that the right to dignity means that children are independent and autonomous right-holders who may not be subjected to shameful and undignified treatment.
The Court’s approach to parents’ entitlement to chastise their child was guided by the best interests of the child in respect of protection from potential abuse. The best interests of the child would be to achieve discipline and achieve the same result “without causing harm or unduly undermining the fundamental rights of the child,” the Court said.
The Court also found that reasonable chastisement was neither necessary nor justifiable in light of the fact that there are non-violent methods for disciplining children such as “positive parenting”.