Why can’t I discipline my child Properly?’ banning corporal punishment and its consequences

Author Brigitte Clark

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Senior Lecturer, University of KwaZulu-Natal; Honorary Research Associate, Oxford Brookes University
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 137 Issue 2, p. 335-359


Corporal punishment in the home is powerfully entrenched as a disciplinary tool in South African society. There is evidence indicating that for many children, particularly those who grow up in poorer urban homes in South Africa, corporal punishment is an everyday experience. This article aims to examine corporal punishment in the home in the light of comparative and international law, the wealth of research, and the Constitutional Court jurisprudence on this topic. The definition and concept of corporal punishment in the home is discussed, as well as the current legal position of parents in South Africa who administer such punishment to their children. The arguments in favour of, and against, corporal punishment are canvassed. It is argued that, when the legislature and/or the executive deals with the removal of the ban, the public should be educated about the harmful effects of such punishment, including reference to the research linking such a practice with a cycle of violence, and even with gender-based violence. South African legislative and executive bodies need to incorporate other means of educating parents as to alternate methods of discipline, and legislating for different methods of control of parents who breach such a ban.