Ban the Smack!
Draft legislation could make it illegal for parents to smack a child on the bum.
Image: via Shutterstock

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has come out in favour of draft legislation which would make it illegal for parents to smack their children in their homes, says News24.

The proposed legislation has already caused a huge outcry among parents, many of whom say it is their right to bring up a child with a “smack on the bum” if the child’s behaviour requires correction.

No more kid killers

The Minister was quoted as saying that parents had to take responsibility and raise their children with proper values, to ensure they "don't end up killing your own children", presumably with reference to child abuse cases where parents have literally beaten their children to death.

Religious "right"?

Current legislation allows parents to smack their children provided that the form of discipline doesn’t leave a mark on the child’s skin.
The debate on smacking has polarised many parents- some experts suggest that smacking is unnecessary when raising a child, and an ineffective form of parenting, while others suggest that it is imperative in establishing boundaries and helping to guide the child. Some refer to it as being a “religious responsibility”, using the “spare the rod, spoil the child” argument. One further issue is varying definitions of the word “discipline”, with some suggesting that a pat on the bum is fine, while others insist that a thrashing with an implement such as a belt is suitable too.

Some question just how such legislation would be put into practice, as policing parents in the home would be almost impossible. Smacking is already illegal in 35 countries worldwide, while other countries allow it with certain qualifications under the law, such as stipulations that only the parent or legal guardian may smack the child, but not a child minder, babysitter or teacher.

To quote paediatrician Susan Moloney in her recent piece for the Guardian,

“As a paediatrician, what I am most concerned about is the serious long-term effects of physical punishment on children's well-being. This is not about parenting styles or punishing parents, it's about protecting children.
Research shows that a child who experiences physical punishment is more likely to develop increased aggressive behaviour and mental health problems as a child and as an adult.”


The changes to the law would mean that a parent could be charged with assault should they smack a child on the bottom.

The alternatives

Recent trends in parenting have shifted from the traditional ways of disciplining kids to alternative forms of corrective behaviour which do not employ smacking. It is only recently that verbal abuse has also been associated with physical abuse when describing abuse of the child.

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