Home / Observatory / News / South Africa's New Legislation Makes 'spanking' Illegal


New legislation was announced last week which caused a major controversy with many – including powerful religious groups – disagreeing with the historic ruling. 

The South Gauteng High Court found on Thursday that the common-law defence of "reasonable chastisement" was no longer in line with the Constitution. This judgment closes a loophole that had been used in the past in defence of parents accused of assaulting their children as punishment. 

The Children's Institute, Out of Harm's Way, issued a report in 2016 which estimates that up to 34% of the country's children are victims of sexual violence and physical abuse before they reach the age of 18.

Wessel van den Berg, child rights and positive parenting portfolio manager for nongovernmental organisation, Sonke Gender Justice, told eNCA that the ruling was "crucial".

"Sonke Gender Justice welcomes the ruling as an important step towards children's rights and violence prevention in South Africa," Van den Berg said.

"A large body of research shows that there's a strong association between men's use of violence and their exposure to harsh physical punishment as children. This ruling promises to reduce multiple forms of violence. We look forward to working with government and the broader public to roll out education campaigns that ensure parents understand alternatives to corporal punishment and can use nonviolent, positive discipline approaches."

The court's decision was not welcomed by everyone, with parents and religious groups slamming the judgement, with many arguing that parents should still be given the right to spank their children, but within reasonable limits. 

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