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The Johannesburg High Court has struck down a parent’s common law defense of “reasonable and moderate chastisement”. This means that if you now use any form of physical discipline to correct your child – no matter how light or well intentioned – you will potentially face a charge of assault and a criminal record for child abuse. This can have disastrous and life-long consequences.
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) is neither for, nor against, spanking. However, we strongly support your rights as a parent to decide for yourself – based on your own moral or religious convictions – how to discipline your own children, for their good and in their best interest.
While many parents may choose not to use any form of physical discipline, we contend that more parenting tools are needed, not fewer. FOR SA has therefore taken the decision to take this judgment on appeal to the Constitutional Court:
1. Given that this judgment affects you and millions of parents, we believe that the normal Parliamentary legislative process should have been followed which allows for public input/hearings. However, this judgment short-circuited this process.
2. We believe that criminalising loving and well-intentioned parents is not in the best interests of the family, and that this judgment seriously erodes your authority as a parent to raise your children.
3. A dangerous precedent was set when the Court ruled that if you are a parent whose sincere religious convictions allow (or even instruct) you to use some form of physical discipline in raising your children, you must now accept that secular law overrules your beliefs and that these beliefs are not in the best interests of your child.