NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – South Africa is taking steps to introduce hate crime legislation, which would include laws to prosecute physical and verbal attacks on foreigners and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, according to local media reports.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe confirmed his department had finalised a draft policy framework on “Combating Hate Crimes, Hate Speech and Unfair Discrimination” in a speech to the national conference of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies at an event entitled “Imagine a World Without Hate!”
To date, South Africa has had no formal laws against hate speech or hate crimes related to intolerance of or discrimination against people on the basis of their race, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or other forms of identity.
Violence against foreigners and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has escalated in the country, including “corrective rape” against lesbians – rape perpetrated with a view to changing the victim’s sexual orientation – which would be considered a hate crime under the new law.
Radebe said the draft policy framework would be presented to the cabinet for approval prior to a public consultation process.
South Africa’s decision to introduce hate crime legislation comes after pressure from human rights groups, including signatures on an online petition from more than 170,000 people from 175 countries on Change.org, a global petition platform.
“We worked so hard for this and it’s really great to see the minister finally do this,” said Ndumie Funda, who started the petition, according to a statement released by Change.org.
Funda, who was appointed in 2011 to the Justice Ministry’s task force on hate crimes against LGBT people, is the founder of Luleki Sizwe, an activist group in Cape Town aimed at combating violence against LGBT people, particularly the “corrective” rape and murder of lesbians and transgender men.
According to Change.org, Funda estimated that 510 women report being the victims of “corrective” rape every year in South Africa and 31 lesbians have been murdered over the past 10 years because of their sexual orientation.