In the final quarter of 2016, on 11 November 2016, approximately 100 individuals and organisations attended a public engagement hosted by Iranti, in collaboration with Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW). A panel consisting of academics, legal experts and activists made presentations and engaged with the audience on the content of the draft Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill. Opinions were varied, and a robust debate took place.
What is a Hate Crime?
A Hate Crime is a crime motivated by the perpetrator’s bias against the victim. These crimes often involve excessive violence meant to transmit a message about the perpetrator’s bias.
Developing an approach to Hate Crimes in South Africa
A Hate Crimes Bill was being developed, by a Working Group on Hate Crimes, as a direct result of the high levels of xenophobic violence that took place in South Africa in 2008. Parallel to this process, and as a result of repeated lobbying by LGBTI activists, the Justice and Security clust
er set up the National Task Team on Gender and Sexual Orientation-based Violence Perpetrated against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons, in 2011.
Life before a Hate Crimes Bill
The South African legal system uses legislation covering matters relating to civil and criminal justice, including the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 106 of 1996; the provision of administrative justice (Administrative Justice Act, 2000); as well as access to Equality Courts (PEPUDA, 2000); for matters related to discrimination and prejudice. To date the existing legislation has not deterred the rate of violent crimes aimed at LGBTI persons; and there is a belief that the introduction of additional
legislation may go the same route.
LGBTI Activists respond to the Hate Crimes Bill
The draft Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill was placed in the public domain in October 2016. It provides for the offence of hate crimes and the offence of hate speech. It also provides for the prosecution of persons who commit those crimes and appropriate sentences that may be imposed on persons who commit hate crime and hate speech offences. Although the Bill claims to provide for the prevention of hate crimes and hate speech, and reporting on the implementation, its application as an integrated approach from government to its administration, is unclear.
One reservation is that the Bill started out as dealing with hate crimes, but with the publication of this draft, hate speech was added. There is a difference between the two. Hate crimes refer to crimes where the perpetrator is motivated by a bias. No formal definition of hate speech exists in South Africa at present.
A submission will be made by Iranti, by the 31 Jan 2017 deadline; and Iranti has activities planned that will take the issue further, through training around human rights, and building capacity in the sector to implement human rights; as well as hosting public engagements around the issue of hate speech and hate crimes. Iranti is currently releasing a five part series of audio visual
conversations around the HC Bill, held with specialists in the sector. These will be loaded onto the Iranti website.