Landmark judgment rules against smacking your child in South Africa: report

Following a landmark judgement, the High Court has ruled that parents who smack their children will no longer be able to plead special defence in court if criminally charged.

According to a report by IOL, the court on Thursday ruled that the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ is not in line with the constitution and no longer applies in law.

The judgment did not create a new offence – as hitting a child has always been assault under the country’s criminal law – however, it was previously possible for a parent who smacked a child to raise a special defence of reasonable chastisement to plead.

Parents stood to be acquitted of assault if they could prove that the chastisement was moderate and reasonable.

However, Judge Raylene Keightley found that this defence that allowed parents to physically discipline their children, was inconsistent with the constitution.

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

“Many parents may believe they they are behaving reasonably,” said Keightley.

“However, given the levels of child abuse and domestic violence in our country, it is likely that many a child is subjected to levels of physical punishment that, regardless of their parents’ belief, they are unable to withstand.”

She concluded that she could find no reasonable justification to permit parents to assault their children for disciplinary purposes.

The judgment arose from an appeal by a father who had been convicted of assault for beating his 13-year-old son in a manner which exceeded the bounds of reasonable chastisement, reports IOL.

After accusing the child of watching pornographic material on the family iPad the father gave him a severe hiding, resulting in his son suffering several bruises.

The lower court earlier postponed the passing of sentence against the father for a period of five years.

Read: These are the most feared crimes in South Africa

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Landmark judgment rules against smacking your child in South Africa: report