The Working Group on Positive Discipline is a network of South African organisations working in various ways to prevent and address child abuse and neglect, and ensure the protection of the rights of children. The Working Group has a particular emphasis on the promotion of positive parenting and non-violent discipline, and is committed to the abolition of corporal and all other forms of humiliating punishment of children.
The Working Group on Positive Discipline was formed in early 2006, but began its life as a sub-group within the much larger civil society grouping, the Children’s Bill Working Group (CBWG). The CBWG, a network of networks representing over 100 organisations, was established early in 2003, after the release by the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) of the Draft Children’s Bill and the Discussion Document on the Bill.
The Working Group on Positive Discipline established itself as a separate group to the CBWG primarily because the wider group felt unable to advocate for and strongly support the prohibition of parental corporal punishment in the Children’s Act as Amended (38 of 2005 and 41 of 2007).
The Children’s Amendment Bill at that stage of its development contained a clause (clause 139) prohibiting parental corporal punishment, supporting awareness-raising and educational programmes on positive and appropriate parenting and discipline, and discouraging the prosecution of parents. Supporting the inclusion of this clause and strengthening it were the focus the activities of the Working Group on Positive Discipline throughout 2006 and 2007. It made a number of submissions to Parliament, which are available in the Working Group documents.
However, when the Children’s Act as Amended was finally passed late in 2007, the clause for which the Working Group had advocated was excised from the final Act, although the emphasis on prevention and building parental capacity in clause 144 owes much to the work of the Working Group.
Although the clause was lost in 2007, the Working Group has continued engagement with advocacy to support the promotion of positive parenting and non-violent discipline (as provided for in clause 144). Its efforts are concentrated on the development of appropriate parenting capacity-building opportunities and strengthening the implementation of positive discipline in schools. To achieve these ends, it is working with the National Departments of Social Development and Education.
Presently, in addition to promoting positive parenting and effective school management, the WGPD is, now that the third Amendment Bill is on the table, engaging in renewed advocacy for the reinsertion of the prohibition clause. In its current form, the draft Amendment Bill contains a clause prohibiting corporal punishment in the home. Additionally, the current Minister of Social Development has come out strongly in support of prohibition in the home. The Amendment Bill is expected to begin the process towards enactment in 2016.