As South Africa undergoes its two day review on Human Rights by the United Nations in Geneva today for the first time – it has come to light that government intends submitting to Parliament the Prevention of Combating Hate Crimes Bill, to broadly tackle all related issues in this regard.
This comes at a time where the country is under a turbulent climate, with clashes pertaining to social cohesion and political uncertainty surfacing in recent years — despite South Africa’s Constitution being one of the world’s most progressive in protecting human rights.
“The Bill is intended to address discrimination in the form of hate crimes in all spheres,” it is disclosed in a reply to a list of issues to the UN’s Human Rights Committee, responsible for reviewing the country’s human rights record.
“It will target direct, indirect and multiple discrimination and contain a comprehensive list of grounds for discrimination, including national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity, among others.
“It will also provide for adequate sanctions to be imposed by our courts of law.”
The intended legislation will be submitted to Parliament during the 2016 session… “probably in the second half of 2016, after a comprehensive consultation process”.
Discrimination and hate speech in recent years have been towards certain sections in society, based on their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation, among others.
In 2015 xenophobic violence boiled over in Durban leaving several people dead.
The Citizen later discovered that Government turned a deaf ear to the gravity of xenophobia, despite academic research and recommendations on the issue made available to as far back as a decade ago. Racism then reared its ugly head this year, with the likes of Penny Sparrow, Justin Van Vuuren and Velaphi Khumalo disgorging racially prejudiced utterances on social media – sparking an uproar.
Soon after, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) revealed that due to the colossal number of complaints on racism it received, statistics and public statements on this will no longer be released.
“Corrective rape” or the murder of a number of lesbians or transgender people have also occurred since early 2000. In an ActionAid report it has been described that a “shameful record of male domination and violence has helped build an increasingly brutal and oppressive culture, in which women are forced to conform to gender stereotypes or suffer the consequences”
The policy framework of the Bill is a result of intense research and will also provide for the development of measures to combat hate crimes, hate speech and unfair discrimination.
There is currently a first working draft based on recommendations contained in the developed policy framework.
The reply also divulged that the earlier version of the Prohibition of Racism, Hate Speech, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance Bill – which was scheduled to be tabled in Parliament in 2012/2013 has been discontinued “on the basis that”, “it must be preceded by a policy”, “hence the development of the policy framework on combating hate crimes, hate speech and unfair discrimination”.
Look out for regular updates on the submissions made to the UN Human Rights Committee in upcoming editions of The Citizen newspaper and online.