SA’s Hate Speech Bill has taken a big step closer to becoming law

 ·16 Mar 2018

Cabinet has approved the submission of the the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill to parliament.

Despite undergoing a number of significant amendments since being introduced, a number of controversies still continue to surround the proposed law – including the large number of characteristics which are now covered under ‘hate speech’.

Under the new laws, hate speech will be defined as a clear intention to be harmful or to incite harm, or promote or propagate hatred on the basis of these characteristics:

  • Race;
  • Gender;
  • Sex, which includes intersex;
  • Ethnic or social origin;
  • Colour;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Religion;
  • Belief;
  • Culture;
  • Language;
  • Birth;
  • Disability;
  • HIV status;
  • Nationality;
  • Gender identity;
  • Albinism; or
  • Occupation or trade

In an analysis of the bill, legal researcher at the FMF, Martin van Staden said that because of its broad nature, the legislation will mean that you commit the crime of hate speech by simply insulting someone with the intention to bring them into contempt.

“This could then condemn you to prison for up to three years for a first offence, and for ten years if you do it again,” he said.

“Not only does the text of the bill not make sense, but in fact it defeats itself under the guise of protecting the element of ‘belief’.

“If you say, for instance, ‘Racists are scum and should be ostracised‘, you are committing hate speech according to the bill, as racism is a belief and belief is protected,” he said.

The bill will now be considered by both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces where, subject to further changes, it will be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for final approval.

Read: Proposed hate speech laws want to make basic insults punishable by 3 years in jail

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