The Constitution, Children’s Act and our criminal law have always protected children against corporal punishment. What exactly is corporal punishment? Any punishment in which physical force is used and means to cause pain or discomfort – that, in short, is the definition by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. That means grabbing a kid by the ear or pinching a thigh too.
In a ground-breaking ruling in the Gauteng High Court last year, Judge Raylene Keightley put an end to any form of corporal punishment at home. Saying, “The common law defense of reasonable chastisement is unconstitutional and no longer applies in our law,” she ruled that if you could be charged with assault if you acted in a certain way toward another adult, that same act against your child can now land you in court too.
This law seemed to complicate many South African households, because culturally many children were hit as a form of discipline by their parents when they were younger, and that’s how some parents of 21st century children are raising their kids today.
DRUM spoke to a few parents to find out if they still hit their children and why. If not, what alternative methods of punishment for wrongdoing they have adopted into their homes.
Tamryn Botes (26)
“I have a very energetic and silly 3-year-old boy. If I’m not watching him, he could tear the whole house down in less than 5 minutes, so my energy has to match his,” Tamryn said.
“Sometimes he does things that make me really angry, so I take away all his favourite toys and snacks. After that, he becomes the sweetest boy ever. I can’t hit him; it’s not the right thing to do.
“I don’t want to raise a violent boy; the country already has an alarming amount of violent men.”
“My four brothers and I were raised by my single mother,” Amanda explained.
“She used to punish us by using a wet wash cloth to hit us, that thing was painful. It made you remember all your sins and promise never to commit any wrong again. It helped. All of us are upright humans now, thanks to her.
“I think what she did differently was that she explained why she was hitting us and why what we did was wrong, it still hurt, but we got it. And that’s how I’m raising my two children; I explain things to them and then hit the back of their hands with my own.”
“I’m married with three children, but only one of them is my biological child, so the dynamics of disciplining are complex. Growing up, my father would beat the hell out of me, and although I didn’t understand it then, it makes sense now,” Thabanga told Drum.
“So that’s what I do with my son. With my other children, I tell them what they’re doing is wrong, and if they don’t stop, I tell my wife to handle it. It just makes life easier for me.”
“My parents raised me in London, and it was a bit different there, but they used to give me good hidings when I did something wrong. They were Christians and they believed in Proverbs 13:24, which states that ‘Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them’.”
“My children are old now, but when they were younger, I used corporal punishment and it worked. They even use it with their own children too. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, these rights are making everyone crazy these days. That’s why we have so much crime; people don’t know right from wrong,” Catharine explained.
Lindiwe Mazibuko (50)
“You know, I used to hit my children when they were younger, but I understand why the government has had to intervene now. Because people beat their children like they’re fighting with adults, some even kill their children,” she said.
“I think sometimes we as parents project things on our kids, which is unfair. Children are precious and they need to be protected at all times. Even parents can be animals. So I discourage hitting kids now.”
Some of our readers also weighed in on topic on Facebook, read their comments below: