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New law to combat hate crimes, hate speech passed in South Africa

The new Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Act “provides for the prevention of hate crimes and hate speech, effective enforcement measures, and the gathering and recording of data on hate crimes and hate speech.”

Photo by Claudio Fonte from Unsplash.com

In South Africa, a new law was passed to combat hate crimes and hate speech, as well as outlines the prosecution process for individuals who perpetrate these offences.

In signing the “Preventing and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill”, which was first introduced in 2018, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said that this measure “gives effect to South Africa’s obligations in terms of the Constitution and international human rights instruments concerning racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in accordance with international law obligations.”

Ramaphosa added that the Constitution “sets out certain basic values, including human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms and non-racialism and non-sexism.” Specifically, the Bill of Rights (Section 9 of the Constitution) “prohibits direct or indirect unfair discrimination against anyone on the grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”

“The Bill of Rights gives everyone the right to dignity and gives everyone the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources.”

The new Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Act, therefore, “provides for the prevention of hate crimes and hate speech, effective enforcement measures, and the gathering and recording of data on hate crimes and hate speech.”

Under the new law, a hate crime is committed if/when a person commits any recognized offence under any law that is motivated by prejudice or intolerance based on one or more characteristics or perceived characteristics of the victim.

Violators could be fined, or could be jailed for up to eight years.

The law has limitations, obviously.

For one, it does not consider actions undertaken in “good faith” as part of hate speech, including artistic outputs, performances or other forms of expression, academic or scientific inquiry, and reporting or commentary in the public interest. Similarly, articulating religious convictions are allowed as long as they do not advocate hatred or constitutes incitement to cause harm.

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