Young children who are regularly spanked by their parents are likely to have lower social development Picture: Pexels

Cape Town - The Constitutional Court will on Thursday rule on the constitutionality of the use of corporal punishment in the home.

The ConCourt has prohibited corporal punishment in detention settings in 1995 and in 2000, corporal punishment was banned in schools. 

As it stands, parents are allowed to hit their children with the justification of corporal punishment being a form of discipline. The Constitutional Court is set to rule whether this practice should continue to be allowed or whether it needs to be prohibited.

The issue of corporal punishment has left South Africans divided.

“Corporal punishment is one of the key drivers of the high levels of violence against children in South Africa. Recent findings from the Birth to Twenty Plus study—which followed more than 2000 children in Soweto from birth to 22 years old— shows that 50% of younger children have experienced violence in the home most often through physical punishment by parents. In adolescence, the proportion of children who have experienced violence in the home increases to 83%,” said Professor Shanaaz Mathews, Director of the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town.

In October 2017, the South Gauteng High Court ruled that the common law defence of reasonable chastisement no longer applied in law and was unconstitutional.

The court emphasised that the intention was not to charge parents with a crime, but instead guide and support them in finding more positive and effective ways of disciplining children.

Research evidence shows that even mild forms of corporal punishment can lead to a number of negative outcomes for children. 

“Corporal punishment which people consider to be ‘light’ or ‘normal’, such as smacking and spanking, can have negative effects on children. The use of such punishment increases children’s aggressive behaviour. Children who are smacked or spanked are, for instance, more likely to act out against other children,” said Carol Bower from the Peace Centre.

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