Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services has called for public comment on the updated Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and the Hate Speech Bill.
The bill outlines the offence of a hate crime and the offence of hate speech. It also details the appropriate sentences that may be imposed on persons who commit these offences.
What are hate crimes and hate speech?
The bill states that a ‘hate crime’ is committed if a person commits any recognised offence motivated by prejudice or intolerance. This also includes prejudice against a family member of the victim or the victim’s association with or support for a group of persons who share similar characteristics.
A person commits ‘hate speech’ when they publish or share statements that clearly intend to be harmful or incite harm. This includes promoting or propagating hatred based on the following categories:
- Ethnic or social origin
- Gender or gender identity
- HIV status
- Nationality or migrant or refugee status
- Sex, which includes intersex
- Sexual orientation
The bill also makes it an offence to distribute hate speech material in cyberspace – i.e., digitally or on digital channels – and said person knows that such electronic communication constitutes hate speech.
The bill excludes from hate speech anything done in good faith, such as:
- Artistic creativity;
- A performance or another form of expression;
- Academic or scientific inquiry;
- Fair and accurate reporting;
- Commentary in the public interest.
This also extends to religious tenets, beliefs, teaching, doctrine or writings.
However, artistic creativity or performance or espousal of religious doctrine will not qualify for the exemption from hate speech if it advocates hatred that constitutes incitement to cause harm based on any protected grounds.
Penalties applicable in the case of hate speech include a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years in the case of a first conviction.
This can be extended to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years in the case of a subsequent conviction.