Children across Zimbabwe won new rights Thursday, March 2nd, when the High Court handed down a ruling outlawing corporal punishment against minors, both at home and in school.
If upheld by the country’s constitutional court, the ruling will change the way Zimbabwe’s parents have dealt with their children for centuries.
Some parents have criticized the ruling, arguing it impedes their rights as parents. Many rights groups have celebrated the corporal punishment ban as a victory for Zimbabwe’s constitution.
The case was originally brought by Ms. Linah Pfungwa, on behalf of her 6 year old daughter, with support from the Justice for Children’s Trust, a non-governmental organization providing free legal services to minors in civil and criminal cases.
Ms. Pfungwa’s daughter had been beaten badly by her first grade teacher with a rubber pipe after she failed to have her mother sign her reading book as evidence she had done her homework.
“My child suffered major bruises and I took photographs and pictures… She had deep bruises on her back and she could hardly sleep properly,” said Ms. Pfungwa, according to the state-run Chronicle newspaper.
“I posted the pictures of my daughter on our WhatsApp group for other parents to observe and it turned out that other children had also been assaulted.”
The case was won on the argument that corporal punishment and violence of any kind subjected to children breaches the child’s rights under Zimbabwe’s constitution.
Ms. Pfungwa and Justice for Children’s Trust have pushed for other forms of discipline to be used for children.
“My child is well-behaved and well-brought up simply as a result of the dialogue that I use as a means of discipline,” Ms. Pfungwa stated.
The High Court Justice David Mangota agreed with Ms. Pfungwa that neither parents nor teachers should ever lay their hands on children, even if the child has misbehaved. Justice Mangota also declared the section of Zimbabwe’s Education Act that permits corporal punishment, unconstitutional.
The case comes shortly after another High Court judge, Justice Esther Muremba, ruled the caning of juveniles too extreme for judicial punishment.