Zimbabwe outlaws corporal punishment

family law

The Zimbabwe High Court has outlawed the use of violence to discipline children both at home and at school.

This ruling came following complaints made by the mother of a six year-old girl. Linah Pfungwa claimed that her daughter had been assaulted by her teacher with a rubber pipe as a punishment for not having her reading book signed by a parent. The attack left the girl with multiple bruises and as a result “she could hardly sleep properly”.

Ms Pfungwa took photographs of the injuries and posted them to a group chat for parents using the mobile messaging service WhatsApp. To her surprise “it turned out that other children had also been assaulted” she told the state-run Chronicle newspaper.

She then launched a legal bid to outlaw the practice, saying there are other more effective methods of discipline. When her daughter misbehaves, Ms Pfungwa will “ground her by denying her access to television as well as denying her pocket money or other goodies like sweets and presents”. At the High Court, the mother argued that smacking children breached their rights as set out by the southern African country’s Constitution.

Judge David Mangota noted that under Zimbabwe’s Education Act, corporal punishment is permitted but he agreed with Ms Pfungwa’s assessment that this rule was unconstitutional. He declared that neither parents nor teachers should be allowed to use violence against children, even if the youngsters misbehave.

The High Court’s decision needs to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court. If the ruling is upheld, Zimbabwe will join 52 other nations around the world where corporal punishment is against the law. The most recent of those was France back in December.

Photo of the Zimbabwe flag by Harvey Barrison via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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