SOUTH AFRICA: Human Rights Commission urges ban on corporal punishment

A total ban on corporal punishment may be enacted in South Africa after the country’s Human Rights Commission recommended the measure to the cabinet earlier this week.

The move comes after a complaint was brought  against a religious group’s teachings by two concerned parents, Adriaan and Hannah Mostert, an NGO (Sonke Gender Justice) and children’s rights activist Carol Bower.

The complainants objected to a parenting manual published by the Joshua Generation Church, which used four of its 39 pages to describe the length and thickness of the rod which parents should use in ‘training up’ children as young as one-year-old.

The complaint, lodged in March 2013, alleged that the church’s doctrine 'requires' children to be beaten with a rod, which violated protections they are guaranteed under the South African Constitution.

After repeated delays the church responded by saying that the State had no business investigating the complaint as no child was named, and accused the Commission of infringing upon the rights of the Christian community by forcing them to conform to beliefs that they did not hold.

When presented with the initial findings of the commission the church unleashed a tirade of objections, listing 39 different reasons why they believed the commission was either wrong in its judgment or acting beyond its mandate.

Despite this the commission found that corporal punishment in any form was inconsistent with constitutional values and violated human rights standards, urging the government to incorporate the previously ratified African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the UN Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child into national law.

The commission asked that the church provide a written guarantee that it would stop advocating for corporal punishment, remove all references to physical punishment from its teaching material and require its trainers and pastors to take a course in non-violent discipline of children.

Importantly the commissioner also asked the government’s Department of Social Development to ban corporal punishment in the home with an amendment to the country’s Children’s Act providing justice for children and punishment for offenders.

The full findings of the Commission can be found here.


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