Banning spanking of kids will help break cycle of violence

Silhouette father with a belt in his hand and a crying boy
Silhouette father with a belt in his hand and a crying boy
Image: prazis / 123RF

I was spanked as a little girl right into my early teens, but I never felt or thought I was being abused by my mother.

It seldom happened; she only resorted to a hiding when she believed I had deliberately ignored her rules by coming home late from school or losing a school jersey or shoes.

I still remember vividly the last time she beat me. This was no minor spanking, it was a vicious beating where she used a leather belt that had steel rings in it.

I was 13 years old and she was livid after finding a letter from a boy in my school tunic pocket when she was doing laundry. She was furious because we had agreed that I would not date until I was older.

Later that day she sat me down and explained that was the last time she had hit me because she believed she had taught me everything she believed I needed to know to make the right choices for myself.

She said all she ever wanted was for me to focus on school and forget about boys so that I would have a better future, like any parent wished for their kids.

I did not rejoice after hearing this. Instead, I was sad.

I was sad because I felt like she was giving up on me as I had grown up being assaulted whenever I did something wrong. I had come to know this form of discipline as part of my life that was for my own good, to ensure I amount to something or someone in future.

I was very scared to misbehave after that beating and conversation. I went back to school and told that boy never to write to me again, and that delayed my dating life by another three years at least.

I have been traumatised by many things in my life but not childhood beatings, and I would like to believe I turned out OK.

As a mother of two, I also saw spanking as a harmless way of disciplining my kids to keep them in line. But after the Constitutional Court ruling on Wednesday that prohibits this, as a law-abiding citizen I have no choice but to use other forms of discipline.

The highest court in the land has ruled that parents no longer have a defence if they are accused of assault for smacking their children.

It upheld an earlier ruling by the South Gauteng High Court doing away with the common-law defence of reasonable chastisement when spanking a child.

Civil society group Freedom of Religion South Africa (For SA) appealed an order by the high court that had ruled it was illegal for parents to spank their children.

This was after the conviction of a father for severely assaulting his 13-year-old son in Johannesburg for watching porn. In his defence, he had argued that he was administering moderate and reasonable chastisement under common law.

A line was crossed here when this kid was severely beaten, resulting in a court case, so the court deemed it fit to abolish spanking for everyone.

If social media can be used to judge the public reaction, the majority of parents are angry at this judgment because they do not view spanking as abuse.

However, in a society as violent as ours, we have to acknowledge that what we saw as harmless was overdone in many homes.

This resulted in the broken society we have, where more than 20,000 people are murdered a year and where women and children get raped daily and are killed by strangers and relatives who are supposed to love and protect them.

It is time that we put a stop to violence, for our own good, and this must begin in our homes.

We have no choice but to stop beating children. It is the only way to teach them that violence is bad. The apex court has spoken, abide or go to jail.

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