One of the first matters expected to come before Parliament this year, is the proposed ban on spanking in the home (as proposed by the SAHRC in its Report against Joshua Generation Church, referred to above). Spanking in the home is currently legal in SA, provided that it is “reasonable” and “moderate”, does not leave an injury, and is solely for the child’s education and correction. This is the position until the Court rules otherwise, or Parliament amends the Children’s Act so as to criminalise spanking in the home.

The Department of Social Development (DSD) has confirmed that it is currently in the process of developing the policy framework that will inform the proposed amendments to the Children’s Act (including on the issue of child discipline). While there is no Bill as of yet, all indications are that the proposed amendments to the Children’s Act will make it a crime for parents to spank their children – in all circumstances, even when non-injurious.

As a result, good parents who love their children and only want what is best for them, could find themselves arrested, and have their children removed from them and placed in foster care. This is already happening in Sweden (the first country to legally ban spanking in the home), where the criminalisation of spanking has resulted in hundreds of normal parents being harassed by the police and social authorities, prosecuted and sentenced, because they have employed mild spanking for bad behaviour.  For e.g. in November 2010, a Swedish district court sentenced a couple to 9 months each in prison and fined them the equivalent of R125,000 after they admitted to spanking three of their children as a normal part of parenting. There was no indication of abuse by the parents in the court documents, with the court specifically noting that the parents “had a loving and caring relationship with their children”. Nevertheless, the parents were sent to prison and fined. The children were remanded to State-sponsored foster care, and it seems extremely unlikely that they will be returned to their family home.

Readers may be interested to know that in South Africa, children are already being removed from parents whose Christian belief is regarded as a threat to their children! In Pietermaritzburg last year, homeschool children were removed from their Christian parents and placed in foster care, because the social worker was concerned that the children were suffering “religious indoctrination” from their parents. The children were only reconciled with their parents months later, after a battle in Court!  If this is already happening on account of homeschooling, one can only imagine what would happen on a charge of assault (in the event of spanking being criminalised)!

Since 2014, FOR SA has consulted with various legal and psychological experts, locally and abroad, with a view to putting comprehensive research and arguments before Parliament in support of retaining reasonable and moderate chastisement in the home. We believe that, instead of creating another law, government should rather spend its time and our taxpayers’ money on implementing the existing laws, which already firmly protect children against child abuse.

FOR SA is in close contact with DSD, and keeping a watchful eye on developments in this regard. As soon as the proposed amendments to the Children’s Act are in the public domain, we will inform the public of the proposed amendments and when, where and how to submit written comments thereon to Parliament.

CALL TO ACTION:  FOR SA encourages you to stand with us in protecting parental, and religious, freedom in SA, by:

  • Giving us your mandate to speak on your behalf to Parliament:
    • MEMBERS OF FOR SA: If you have already joined as a member of FOR SA and given us a general mandate to represent you in matters affecting religious freedom, please advise us if, on this particular issue, you do not wish to stand with us, by e-mailing us at legal@forsa.org.za by Sunday, 13 March. If we have not received written notification from you by then, we shall assume that we have your support in protecting religious freedom in this particular case;
    • NON-MEMBERS: If you have not yet joined as a member of FOR SA and/or given us a general mandate to represent you in matters affecting religious freedom, please let us know if, on this particular issue, you wish to stand with us, by e-mailing us at legal@forsa.org.za by Sunday,13 March.
  • Let us have your details so that we can inform you of any protest marches that may take place; and
  • Making a contribution to the professional fees (lawyers, psychologists, etc) in this matter. (FOR SA’s bank account details appear at the top of this Newsletter. Reference:  Spanking).