The Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill awaits President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature (Photo: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock)
LGBTIQ+ groups have welcomed Parliament’s landmark passage of the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill and have called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to speedily sign it into law.
The National Assembly passed the legislation, along with several amendments proposed by the National Council of Provinces, on Tuesday afternoon. It is now awaiting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s assent.
The long-awaited Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, first drafted in 2016, is seen by LGBTIQ+ groups as a crucial tool to address ongoing queerphobic violence and dangerous vitriol.
OUT LGBT Well-being, which famously took Steve Hofmeyr to the Equality Court for hate speech, commended Parliament for passing the bill.
“While the bill will not solve all the challenges we face in ending this scourge of hate, it is an important step towards holding perpetrators accountable and better documenting these incidents,” said Dawie Nel, Executive Director of OUT.
The Hate Crimes Working Group (HCWG), a coalition of civil society organisations from a variety of sectors and disciplines, has been advocating for a hate crimes law since 2009.
The group, which has participated in several rounds of public hearings and submitted public comments as required to advance the passage of the bill, congratulated the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
“You played a crucial role in the success of the passage of this Bill by the National Assembly. You have worked hard for a long time to achieve this. We are thankful for the advocacy,” said the organisation in a statement.
The Embrace Diversity Movement (EDM) said the passage of the bill was a significant triumph for advocacy and represents a resounding victory for the rights and dignity of all citizens.
“This victory demonstrates the power of civic engagement and reflects the unity of purpose among civil society organisations that have led lobbying and advocacy efforts to get the bill to where it is today,” commented EDM Secretary-General, Mpho Buntse.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance of South Africa (Glasa) called the bill’s passage “not just a win for the queer community” but also “a win for democracy and the protection of a person’s rights in accordance to our country’s constitution.”
Lethu Bulose, Glasa Chairperson, noted that the approval of the bill does not spell the end of the challenges faced by queer people and “that more work still needs to be done to stamp out stigmatisation, abuse, and discrimination of LGBTQAI+ people in our local communities.”
The groups were united in their call for President Ramaphosa to sign the bill into law.
“We urge President Ramaphosa to promptly sign the bill, and for the government to ensure that there is sufficient will, capacity, and resources to implement its provisions. There is no time to waste in ensuring that the fight against hateful incitement and violent bigotry in South Africa is finally ramped up,” said Nel.
If signed by President Ramaphosa, the bill will make hate crimes and hate speech criminal offences. Penalties include fines, correctional supervision and imprisonment for up to five years. A hate crime can also be seen as an aggravating circumstance by the courts.