‘SCA ruling on hate speech disappointing’

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Executive Director of Access Chapter 2 and co-chair of the National Task Team on Hate Crimes, Steve Letsike, says the LGBTI community is disappointed by the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on hate speech.

Speaking on Morning Live, Letsike says the judge has dismissed all clauses of the constitution in terms of freedom, equality and non-discrimination.

The SCA ruling is on former diplomat and radio host Jon Qwelane’s opinion piece on same-sex marriage.

Qwelane was found guilty of hate speech in 2017 following a Sunday newspaper column he had written in 2008 in which he berated gays and lesbians.

The SCA upheld Qwelane’s appeal that the Pepuda (promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair discrimination Act) was inconsistent with Section 16 of the Constitution, which guaranteed the right to freedom of expression.

The SCA also dismissed the complaint by the South African Human Rights Commission against Qwelane. The court found that there were glaring tensions between Freedom of expression and the Regulation of hate speech.

The SCA says comments can be classified as hate speech only if they cause harm as well as incite violence.

Letsike says the gay and lesbian community are still experiencing discrimination.

“Everyone has got rights, including those who hold a different opinion. But where rights are hurtful to others, and inciting hate, this is where we speak about the responsibilities of rights. In this case, Jon Qwelane had crossed that line. I am not saying people’s freedom of speech must be taken away, but you need to look at the thin line on what is rights and what is wrong. LGBTI are experiencing high levels of hate crimes in this country and it is because of this bigotry that is promoted and disseminated that makes it hurtful and harmful to them.”

Parliament must now amend the “vague” and “over broad” law by reworking the provisions of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.

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