Today, Sonke Gender Justice in collaboration with Africa Child Policy Forum, The Africa Experts Committee on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child, Child Helpline International, Plan International, Save the Children and UNICEF launched the Action on Violence against Children campaign.
This is a multi-country campaign initially focusing on Kenya, Tanzania, Swaziland, Uganda, South Africa, Malawi and Zambia. The number of reported cases of sexual, physical and emotional violence against children in Eastern and Southern Africa is horrifying – and these are just the instances we know about.
In South Africa – a country with one of the highest levels of interpersonal violence, including violence against children – prohibiting corporal punishment offers a catalytic opportunity to reduce violence.
Unfortunately this kind of use of violence is still widely supported by many South Africans. The arguments mounted by the pro-spanking lobby are harmful, to individual children and to society at large.
Children are entitled to at least the same level of protection from random assault as are adults. Hitting people is wrong, and children are people too. South Africa is bound by its ratification of international and regional treaties, its acceptance of various Universal Periodic Review recommendations and its own Constitution to ensure that the rights of children to be protected from physical assault, no matter how ‘mild’, is realised.
In addition, a large and growing body of research provides clear evidence that corporal punishment experienced in early childhood has a range of negative, developmental, emotional, behavioural, physical and cognitive consequences, including a higher likelihood of boys growing into abusive men and girls tending to seek relationships as adult women which re-victimise them.
In 2014, the honourable Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, expressed her commitment to see through the amendment of the Children’s Act that will prohibit corporal punishment in all spaces, especially the home.
“Children are impressionable and when those in positions of authority use violent means to encourage discipline, the children understand this as saying violence is permissible when trying to persuade others to act in a certain way. This is why we are going to forge ahead with banning corporal punishment even in the home environment,” said Social Development Minister Dlamini.
Sonke commends the Minister for her statement. Physical punishment of children is contrary to our own Constitution, and to several international treaties that South Africa has signed.
We believe the Minister’s statement expresses the intention to improve relationships and reduce violence between adults, youth and children, and we support this vision.
Sonke, therefore, calls on the Minister to continue her commitment to this matter and to table the amendment as soon as possible.