In Practice

Corporal punishment in the home: Is there a legal duty on the medical doctor to report it?

S Lutchman


The infliction of corporal punishment on children (in the home) was found to be unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of South Africa (September 2019). Corporal punishment was historically permitted if exercised within reasonable grounds (moderate or reasonable chastisement). In reaching its judgment, the apex court found that the child’s right to human dignity and to be free from all forms of violence was unjustifiably infringed by the exercising of this form of discipline. In addition, the child’s best interests was not served. Importantly, there were other non-violent means available to parents to discipline their children. This article examines what this judgment means for medical doctors who reasonably suspect that a child has been the victim of corporal punishment. It is argued that medical doctors have a duty to report such incidents in terms of section 110(1) of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005.

Author's affiliations

S Lutchman, Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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Children's rights; Law; Ethics

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2021;111(7):620-622. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2021.v111i7.15528

Article History

Date submitted: 2021-06-30
Date published: 2021-06-30

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