Cape Town - The Women’s Legal Centre and the Triangle Project have called for the speedy passing and implementation of the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, to combat crimes perpetrated against members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The organisations, making a joint oral submission to the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services on Tuesday, believed that having a specific written law makes it clear that the country rejects hate and prejudice, and protects diversity and equality.
This as the trial of the man accused of murdering Phelokazi Mqathanya, a lesbian in Khayelitsha, has been postponed again because the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court ran out of printing paper.
Triangle Project research co-ordinator Thozama Njobe said while the legislation was in progress, the organisation is receiving an alarming and shocking number of new reports about hate crimes and hate speech against women and LGBTQIA+ people.
“Discrimination, violence, human rights violations, and criminalisation targeting LGBTQIA+ people in South Africa continue to have a severe and shameful impact.
“These reports that reach us are but the tip of the iceberg, and do not reflect the true prevalence and impact of hate crimes and hate speech against LGBTQIA+ communities in South Africa, who are facing a crisis of fear – despite the promise of our progressive Constitution and supporting legislation,” she said.
The organisation’s submission included a change to the preamble of the bill to include and set the foundational framework of the legislation and change the “binary” language (pronouns) to ensure inclusivity.
Same Love Toti founder and director Kim Lithgow said despite these alarming murders, there was still no hate crime legislation. Lithgow said hate crime legislation would provide justice for the victims, their families, and the greater LGBTQIA+ community, protect human rights, and provide hate crime statistics.
Lithgow said the public needed to be educated about the definition of hate speech as it was evident – from the number of people who objected to the legislation – that there was a lack of understanding of the definition.
“The courts and the SAPS need to be educated about the definition of hate speech and must be trained on the process of prosecuting these cases.
“There is also a need for training on hate crimes, what constitutes hate crimes, and how to prosecute them.
“Too often, victims of hate crimes suffer secondary victimisation at the hands of the SAPS, medical personnel, shelters, and social workers.
“Even judges, magistrates, and court officials need to be educated regarding sexual and gender minorities, and how to uphold LGBTQIA+ human rights,” she said.
Lithgow said adequate education and training would require resources and funding, and that it was concerning that there was no provision for funding within the bill.