The Constitutional Court has upheld a Johannesburg High Court ruling that it is unconstitutional for parents to impose corporal punishment on their children in their homes.
In a unanimous judgement handed down on Wednesday, the Court dismissed an appeal by Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA).
The Court argued that children can still be “effectively disciplined” without resorting to “moderate and reasonable chastisement,” also known as corporal punishment.
The Constitutional Court [held] that the common law defence of reasonable and moderate parental chastisement is inconsistent with the provisions of sections 10, 12(1(c), and 28(2) of the Constitution.Constitutional Court
FOR SA’s argument
In its challenge of the High Court’s 2017 ruling, FOR SA had argued that prohibiting corporal punishment at home contravenes religious beliefs.
It said it was acting on behalf of its members and the public at large.
It argued that these members “believe that the scriptures and other holy writings permit, if not command, reasonable and appropriate correction of their children.”
FOR SA further argued that “loving parental chastisement applied for the benefit of the child and in his or her best interest gives dignity to the child.”
The High Court had earlier ruled that corporal punishment violates a child’s rights, including dignity and freedom from violence and degradation.
The Constitutional Court outlawed corporal punishment in detention in 1995 and in schools in 2000.