The question whether parents may chastise their children has finally been answered by the Constitutional Court. Historically, the South African common law allowed for parents to chastise their children provided that it was reasonable.
Last year the Gauteng High Court held that even if parents’ actions fall within the scope of reasonable chastisement, there is still an element of physical violence involved and thus infringes a child’s right to bodily integrity and dignity. It concluded therefore that reasonable chastisement could no longer be supported under our constitution. The Constitutional Court was faced with answering the same question in the Freedom of Religion South Africa v Minister of Justice & Constitutional Development judgment. The court confirmed that the common law defense of reasonable and moderate chastisement is inconsistent with sections 10 and 12(1) (c) of the Constitution. Physical chastisement is therefore now disallowed.
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