Whack of laws

The act which prohibits child spanking and corporal punishment was debated at a South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) discussion yesterday.

The act which prohibits child spanking and corporal punishment was debated at a South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) discussion yesterday.

Delegates all agreed that there needed to be more communication between the government and communities. In particular on the legislation prohibiting child spanking and corporal punishment, which directly affected parents and education providers.

Education official Nkosana Mnisi said since the "culture of human rights" came into effect after democracy in 1994, there was a concern regarding the role of parents.

"In essence, the legal system has become a third party to parent-child interactions and it, not the family, determines acceptable behaviour," Mnisi said, questioning whether there was any justification for this.

"Parents feel helpless in exercising their parental roles and responsibilities because it looks like rights are skewed in favour of children and roles of parents and elders have been undermined."

Mnisi said it was a reality that parents raised their families differently and had different approaches to disciplining their children. He said the laws were in place to protect children from domestic or school "savagery".

"It is clear that these laws do not fall from trees. They are carved in relation to experiences.

"It is important to recognise that laws, whether judicial or legislative in nature, always take precedence over tradition, norms and policy," he said.

Joy Mehlomakulu from the SAHRC said the Constitution had been formed to protect children who were not safe in their homes and schools.

"As a society we are degenerating. As parents we've become very complacent, so government had to step in," she said.

Prinslea Mahrey from the Centre for Child Law said historically in some homes, a husband was allowed to hit his wife and this had been prohibited and so should child spanking. - Sapa.

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