On 18 September 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled in the case of Freedom of Religion South Africa v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Others, that moderate and reasonable chastisement of children in a home environment is no longer consistent with the Constitution.
This means that a parent who smacks, or uses other forms of corporal punishment to discipline their children, can be found guilty of a criminal offence.
This is irrespective of a parent’s religious views on the chastisement of children, and whether religious scriptures make provision for a child to be corporally punished at home.
The case in question concerned a father who was found guilty of assault, having chastised his child, and who relied on the common law defence of reasonable and moderate chastisement as his defense. The court found that the defence was inconsistent with the constitution.
This ruling by the Constitutional Court extends to the protection of children to corporal punishment, and chastisement which was granted in Christian Education South Africa v Minister of Education (CCT4/00)  ZACC 11; 2000 (4) SA 757; 2000 (10) BCLR 1051 (18 August 2000), which found that corporal punishment in schools was found inconsistent with the Constitution and illegal.
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