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Human Rights Commission says no to corporal punishment

20 August 2022

The use of corporal punishment has far-reaching effects and can cause mental and physical harm to children as well as short- and long-term aggression and antisocial behaviour in pupils, even as they mature.

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said this on Friday in response to a news report earlier this week that Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi supported a “strong review” of the law that banned corporal punishment in schools.

The use of corporal punishment in schools was outlawed in 1996.

The commission said if these insinuations in the report are accurate, it would be concerned in light of the right to bodily and psychological integrity and the right not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman and degrading manner, particularly given the lack of agency that pupils have and the extremely violent society in which we live.

Meanwhile, Lesufi on Friday rejected reports insinuating he had called for the return of corporal punishment.

Lesufi said in response to a question on whether corporal punishment should be enforced, he had indicated it was the community’s democratic right to review certain education policies if they wished to do so.

The Gauteng education department said Lesufi never advocated or supported the administration of corporal punishment in any way.

“The review of a certain policy has never been equated to the support of a particular view,” Lesufi said.

The SAHRC said corporal punishment was not a solution to disciplinary problems in a school or any other setting.

“Conversely, corporal punishment increases behavioural problems in children in the long-term and has shown no positive behavioural outcomes.”

The commission said the Constitutional Court agreed with this assessment of corporal punishment on two occasions.

In a judgment in 2015, the court held that “a culture of authority which legitimates the use of violence is inconsistent with the values for which the constitution stands” and essentially prohibited corporal punishment in schools.

In 2019, then chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng handed down a unanimous judgment declaring the common law defence of moderate and reasonable chastisement constitutionally invalid.

The court held that parents were prevented from disciplining their children using violence, which included any form of corporal punishment.

The commission said the issues of a lack of discipline in a school environment were systemic and broad and cannot be solved with the use of corporal punishment.  

It said there were various non-violent solutions to discipline problems in schools, which required ongoing collaboration between the school, governing bodies, parents, social services and the broader community.

“The commission would urge government to use the resources at its disposal to equip schools to deal with issues of indiscipline in schools in a non-violent and sustainable manner.”

Source: TimesLIVE

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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