Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Hitting a child may cost R300

Pieter du Toit, Beeld

Cape Town - R300 for a clip on the ear.

That's what parents will have to cough up if they're prosecuted under the provisions for corporal punishment in the proposed Children's Act and if they are given the option of a fine.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Tuesday told the parliamentary Social Welfare Services portfolio committee that unless clause 139 of the Children's Act was changed, "any minor smack on the buttocks or rap over the knuckles" would be illegal and punishable by law.

"It means that the NPA would be obliged to subject each and every complaint filed by children against their parents to the legal process," said Advocate Rodney de Kock, the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Western Cape.

"A decision on whether sufficient pain has been inflicted (for the complaint to qualify) does not lie with the NPA. The act will stipulate that each smack or clip is an offence and should be treated as such."

The new law stipulates that absolutely no form of corporal punishment is legal and a child may not be punished in a way that is "cruel, inhuman or degrading".

The act also negates the defence of physical punishment as "a reasonable form of discipline" as contained in the existing Child Care Act.

Cheryllyn Dudley of the ACDP asked if it was not possible to refer in the legislation to "reasonable forms of corporal punishment".

Committee chairperson Advocate Mike Masutha of the ANC informed her that the law made provision for training in alternative disciplinary methods.

Both Dudley and Hilda Weber of the DA wanted to know precisely what options were available to a hiding and disciplining that was seen as "degrading".

"The Education Department can provide that answer," Masutha said.

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