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UNICEF supports landmark moment for child rights in South Africa

UNICEF South Africa/Schermbrucker
© UNICEF South Africa/Schermbrucker

October 2019 - UNICEF welcomes the recent judgment that was handed down by the Constitutional Court of South Africa regarding the constitutionality of the use of corporal punishment in the home.

UNICEF views corporal punishment as one of the key drivers of the high levels of violence against children in South Africa and concurs with the Court finding that the right to dignity means that children are independent and autonomous rightsholders who may not be subjected to shameful and undignified treatment.

UNICEF endorses submissions by the Children’s Institute, the Peace Centre, and Sonke Gender Justice – all represented by the Centre for Child Law – which had underlined the high levels of violence against children and the link between corporal punishment and other forms of violence.

UNICEF does not view this ruling as being aimed at criminalizing parents, but rather as only the first step in protecting children more from physical violence in the home.

UNICEF endorses efforts for the Children’s Act to be harmonized with the Constitution and developed in such a way as to support parents better in the guidance that they provide to children. UNICEF views discipline as being more than punishment. Discipline is about using respectful and non-violent methods to teach children how to behave appropriately. This includes teaching children how to behave through rewarding correct behavior, correcting misbehavior, understanding respect as well as understanding what non-violent consequences are.

UNICEF is encouraged that the ruling is accompanied by momentum from the Department of Social Development to drive a national parental awareness campaign on positive discipline. Programmes that have shown to be effective in changing both individual attitudes and social norms around child discipline should be scaled up and we caregivers must be supported with information on alternative, non-violent forms of discipline to replace corporal punishment.





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