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Corporal punishment within the home

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Child rights activists have welcomed the South African Human Rights Commissions (SAHRC) recent investigation which requests that the South African Government introduce amendments to the Children’s Act to prohibit the use of corporal punishment in the home.

VOC spoke to Carol Bower, child rights activist at Linali Consulting, and one of the complainants to the SAHRC, which prompted the SAHRC’s investigation.

As a consultant at Linali Consulting, which is an independent consulting firm, Bower’s main area of concern is the prevention of violence against children, including corporal violence.

Linali was prompted to open an investigation into the issue of corporal punishment within the home when it was brought to their attention that the Joshua Generation Church situated in Table View published on its website a 39 page booklet on parenting. Of the 39 pages, 4 pages is dedicated to explaining the length and thickness of the ‘rod’ with which children as young as one are to be disciplined.

“That [stipulation] is unacceptable in my view,” Bower asserted.

Bower further stated that her concern is based on her estimation that the church encourages parents to physically discipline their children. Her concern was secondly provoked by the churches assertion of religious freedom. A claim that Bower notes is preached by all the “charismatic Christian churches.”

“God tells them to do it” is a notion that the church uses to enforce corporal punishment when preaching about “training-up a child,” Bower explains.

The main churches are largely supportive of the prohibition of corporal punishment. These churches include the South African Council of Churches and the South African Bishops Conference.

With regard to the possible appropriation of parents’ right and duty to discipline their children with the enforcement of the Act, bower explained: “If I leaned across the table and slapped your face – I don’t have to draw blood, I don’t have to leave bruises and I don’t have to break bones. You could go, quite likely, straight to the police and report me for assault. Unless you happen to be my child, in which case, I can hit you as much as I like. How does that work in a human rights constitutionally based democracy?”

“If we can’t hit people – as the law says – children are people too, and let me tell you, children need greater protection than adults.”

Bower further asserts that ensuing violence on children teaches the wrong message. In doing so, we discourage within children the ability to think for themselves, nor does it teach them to consider long term consequences. All they are taught through corporal punishment is “immediate compliance.”

The so-called “little smacks” are proven to result in long term harm to intelligence, IQ, and cognitive function. Boys that are corporally punished have been found to be more susceptible to abusive relationships, whilst females that are corporally punished are more likely to seek out abusive spouses.

Bower concluded by asserting that due to the violent nature of society, she believes that it is time that society cease teaching children how to be violent.

Contact Number: 061 414 6889


VOC (Thakira Desai)

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