The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child defines corporal punishment as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light”.
This could involve hitting or slapping a child with the hand or an implement such as a belt or cane – or kicking, shaking or throwing a child, pinching or pulling their hair, or forcing them to stay in an uncomfortable or undignified position.
South Africa is a signatory to the committee’s convention on children’s rights, and that is why it’s surprising that there is still debate whether corporal punishment should be permitted or not.
Even though it was outlawed in 1996, being described as “contrary to the prescripts of the South African constitution and international human rights norms and standards”, it is still widely used.
We believe it is time that much stronger action be taken to bring to book those who disregard the law, which in the case of schoolchildren is clearly set out in the South African Schools Act and the National Education Policy Act.
This is why we fully support a South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) finding that a manual promoting corporal punishment, which was published by the Joshua Generation Church in 2013, is in violation of the Constitution.
And we are even happier that the SAHRC has also recommended to the cabinet that the Department of Social Development pass legislation prohibiting corporal punishment in the home.
Hitting back at the SAHRC, the church said the ruling would “damage children and destroy families”.
We beg to differ.
If anything, administering physical punishment is more likely to damage family relationships. Corporal punishment is wrong.
It is cruel.
What is more, we are surprised that a church would have the temerity to express such a view.
There is a small, but stubborn group of people in South Africa who insist that inflicting physical punishment on children is good if it is “administered with love”.
This makes absolutely no sense. Love and corporal punishment can never be spoken about in the same breath. Any adult who believes this is living in a “fool’s paradise”.