A court judgment prohibiting parents from smacking their children sets a dangerous precedent that erodes parental authority.
That is the view of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) – a non-profit Christian organisation – in response to the judgment‚ which effectively found that the common law defence of reasonable chastisement of children at home was unconstitutional and no longer applicable in law.
The order was made by the High Court in Johannesburg in a case involving a Muslim father who beat his son for allegedly watching pornography.
Judge Raylene Keightley said it was time for the country to march in step with its international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child by recognising that the reasonable chastisement defence is no longer legally acceptable.
FOR SA made submissions as a “friend of the court”‚ unsuccessfully‚ in favour of reasonable chastisement on the basis that millions of Christians believed that the scriptures permitted it.
FOR SA’s executive director Michael Swain said in a statement on Monday that it was unfortunate that the judgment did not distinguish between “violence and abuse” – which was deplorable – and “reasonable and moderate chastisement”.
The organisation believed that the judgment made serious inroads on parental authority and the freedom of parents who believed that reasonable and moderate physical chastisement “done from time to time‚ always in love‚ is in the best interests of their children”.
Judge Keightley found that the “notion of parental power and the view that children owe a duty of obedience to their parents” were “at odds with the child-focused model of rights envisaged under our Constitution”.