Johannesburg – The chairperson of the CRL Rights Commission says one of the issues to address while seeking alternatives to corporal punishment is how children are raised and whose values are valued.
The commission’s Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva was speaking during a dialogue in Johannesburg on Tuesday on alternatives to corporal punishment.
“The issue of how we raise our children and whose values are valued is a debate that we should have in a country that is so diverse and coming from a past like ours,” she said.
This comes after a ruling by the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg earlier this year that the common law defence of reasonable chastisement is not in line with the Constitution, and no longer applied in South Africa law.
This decision meant South Africa joined other African countries including Kenya, South Sudan, Tunisia, and the Republic of Congo to deem corporal punishment illegal in all settings, including in the justice system, schools and at home.
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said the commission had always promoted and protected the rights of children.
“We are of the view that, as we protect the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities, the rights of the children in those communities are also protected. We do not believe that children should be seen as being outside their communities,” she said.
“We have stood up against the abuse of children within cultural and religious communities when there was a need to do so. We have taken very unpopular decisions in our quest to protect children,” Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said.
“So for us, issues of children are at the core of the work we do and we have never allowed communities to abuse women, children and young people in the name of culture and religion.”
She added that South Africa had long been a signatory to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, which looked out for the best interests of the child.
“I dare say the most important thing for every child is to be taught what is right and wrong, to be given boundaries and be taught about consequences of not doing the right thing,” she said.
“Basically, children thrive on discipline,” Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said.
However, she made it clear that discipline didn’t mean corporal punishment, but that the argument had long been whether to change the law first, or to first teach parents that corporal punishment was not the answer.
“The way the whole issue of corporal punishment in the home has been handled has shown that the rights of the silent millions may easily be overridden by a few who have the voice,” she said.