Should fathers who don't pay maintenance be jailed?

The parliamentary portfolio committee on justice and correctional services will deliberate on the Maintenance Amendment Bill this week. The Bill proposes to increase the penalty for failure to pay maintenance. The suggestion is that defaulters should be jailed from the maximum of one year to three years. The Bill further proposes that maintenance matters should be concluded more speedily.

Click here to view the full Maintenance Amendment Bill.

Wessel van den Berg, Child Rights and Positive Parenting portfolio manager at Sonke Gender Justice Project, spoke to Kienno Kammies on CapeTalk about why they oppose the option of prison sentencing.

It actually defeats the purpose of having more support for a child if you place the defaulter in prison, especially for periods as long as two to three years. You effectively remove their ability to earn an income and how then will they be able to pay maintenance if they are not able to earn an income?

Instead of prison time, Van den Berg suggests a number of alternatives such as removal of passports and visas, removal of drivers' licences, cancellation of membership to professional bodies and a fine. Offenders could also be issued with suspended sentences.

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