In a major turnaround, a proposal which would have criminalised parents spanking children has been removed from the latest draft of the Children’s Amendment Bill which will be submitted to Parliament for consideration.
Unlike previous versions of the Bill, the latest draft makes no mention of “chastisement” or “discipline”, which means it no longer proposes to ban parents’ rights to spank, says Philip Rosenthal of pro-life lobby group ChristianView Network (CVN) in an email alert today.
Responding to the about-turn, he thanks everybody who spoke to defend parents’ right to spank children. He also gives “special thanks” to the Western Cape Government Social Development department “who listened to concerns and defended the right to spank”.
ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley said today that the party is concerned about aspects of the latest draft of the Children’s Amendment Bill but welcomes the fact that it no longer refers to banning parents from spanking their children.
She commended “all who have worked tirelessly to ensure parents choice in this matter is not undermined and that religious freedom is protected” and everybody who had made public submissions to the government.
The ACDP had been “directly responsible for delaying and stopping a decision to remove a clause on reasonable chastisement from the Children’s Act during the past 20 years. This ensured that parents disciplining children in line with biblical guidelines and Christian teaching were not acting unlawfully,” she said.
She urged all those who had acted and spoken out against the recent attempt to ban spanking to remain vigilant, “as this matter will not disappear entirely”
“Attempts to equate abuse and violence with reasonable chastisement or a spanking will continue despite the fact that criminalising spanking will not achieve the desired outcome of reducing child abuse and the fact that it would divert resources away from where they are most needed,” she said.
“South Africa and communities throughout the world are suffering violent and tragic consequences, where children lack discipline and disrespect others. For government to dictate to parents through legislation how they should raise their children, or what can and can’t be taught in their church, violates a child’s right to loving discipline and a parent’s right to guide their family and to make decisions and choices in line with their beliefs,” said Dudley.
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) which mobilised the public to submit written comments on proposals, in the previous draft of the Bill, to outlaw all physical correction in the home, says it is greatly encouraged to see that these proposals are no longer in the latest version.
“For millions of South Africans, physical discipline — reasonably and moderately applied – IS acting in the best interest of their children, and it is encouraging that government has heard what the people of South Africa have to say about this matter that will greatly impact each and every family in our nation,” said FOR SA legal counsel Adv Nadene Badenhorst.
In November last year FOR SA brought an appeal before the Constitutional Court against a 2017 High Court judgment which declared all forms of physical correction of children by their parents — no matter how light or well-intended — illegal. The Constitutional Court reserved judgement and their decision is still pending.
CVN points out that while the Children’s Amendment Bill offers good news on child discipline, it also contains some bad news, against which it will continue to lobby.
“… the bill would ban payment of lawyers and social workers facilitating adoptions, and since the state social workers don’t have the capacity to do the work — the result is that the bill would stop almost all adoptions — thus leaving more vulnerable children without a mom or dad and pressuring more into abortion. So if the bill passes then abortion practitioners can carry on killing babies for profit, but adoption practitioners can’t charge for their time,” says CVN in a Facebook post.