South Africa: Ruling Banning the Spanking of Children Is Both Legally and Morally Sound


The Constitutional Court judgment on corporal punishment of children means that the common-law defence of reasonable and moderate parental chastisement is constitutionally indefensible. This judgment has nudged South Africa closer to fulfilling its international obligations to protect children.

What would you do should you find your 11-year-old child watching pornographic material on his/her/your laptop; or if you find the 11-year-old playing with the vibrator left inside the bedside drawer? Do you apologise to the child for not keeping safe the adult material or do you yank your leather belt to beat up the child and kick him or her on the buttocks for being naughty? Do you follow the prescript of Psalm 137:9?

Those advocating for the so-called parental right of chastisement would have wished that the Constitutional Court decision in Freedom of Religion South Africa v Minister of Justice & Constitutional Development 2019 ZACC 34] had been decided by the Supreme Court of Canada.

In 2004, that court [in Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada (Attorney General) [2004] 1 S.C.R. 76, 2004 SCC 4], addressing the constitutionality of section 43 of the Criminal Code on "reasonable punishment" defence to the physical punishment of children with...

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