The Children’s Amendment Bill that is now out for comment clearly states that “any punishment, within the home or other environment, in which physical force or action is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or harm to the child is unlawful”. That make disciplining your child in any physical way a criminal offence for which anyone, including your child, can make a complaint with the police.
This effectively means any form of corporal punishment is something of the past in South Africa.
The Department of Social Development has officially published the new Children’s Amendment Bill this week. The bill aims to introduce a number of changes to the current Children’s Act – including regulating unmarried fathers, adoption, and surrogate motherhood. But the largest change to the existing Bill deals with outlawing various forms of child discipline commonly still seen in South Africa.
Cruel, inhuman or degrading
Section 12A of the Act reads:
12A. (1) Any person caring for a child, including a person who has parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child, must not treat or punish the child in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.
(2) Any punishment, within the home or other environment, in which physical force or action is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or harm to the child is unlawful.
BusinessTech.co.za points out in their online report that – notably – the common law defence of “reasonable chastisement” has been abolished in the new amendment of the Bill.
The Bill also provides for actions to be taken if parents or carers violates the specifications of the new law. “Upon being reported for violating this section, the parent must be referred to a prevention and early intervention programme.
“When prevention and early intervention services have failed, or are deemed to be inappropriate, and the child’s safety and wellbeing is at risk, a designated social worker must assess the child.”
The section also notes that the Department of Social Development must take all reasonable steps to implement education and awareness-raising programmes concerning these new rules.