2000 April/The Equality Act

The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, signed into law last February, has been considered by its framers as the most important single piece of legislation since the enactment of the Constitution in 1994. They are right. With this Act, the Bill of Rights, the Abortion Act and the upcoming Euthanasia Act, South Africa has been propelled into the forefront of ‘progressive’ states busy preparing for the New World Order. Make no mistake; in terms of legislation, we are now by far and away the most ‘liberal’ state in the world, outstripping even Holland. What happens in consequence in this country will be a good indication of what other nations can expect.

With insufficient space for a systematic analysis of the Act, I must limit myself to its general provisions.

The Act makes illegal the following:
i) Unfair discrimination. “Discrimination” according to the definition in the Act, “means any act or omission, including a policy, law, rule, practice, condition or situation which (a) imposes burdens, obligations or disadvantages on; or (b) withholds benefits, opportunities or advantages from, any person on one or more of the prohibited grounds.” The prohibited grounds given by the Act are the following: race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture language and birth. Any other ground that might disadvantage a person or that “undermines human dignity” or adversely affects his rights and freedoms, is included.

ii) Hate speech. According to the Act, no-one may communicate words in any way that “could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to (a) be hurtful; (b) be harmful or incite harm; (c) promote or propagate hatred.”

iii) Harassment. This, according to the definition in the Act, “means unwanted conduct which is persistent or serious and demeans, humiliates or creates a hostile or intimidating environment or is calculated to induce submission by actual or threatened adverse consequences and which is related to (a) sex, gender or sexual orientation; or (b) a person’s membership or presumed membership of a group identified by one or more of the prohibited grounds or a characteristic associated with such group”.

Let’s take a closer look at all that.

The Act puts sexual orientation on a par with race and gender. This will create situations unacceptable to anyone with a Christian outlook on homosexuality, leading to prosecutions for, amongst other things:

  • refusing to rent a room or flat to a homosexual couple;
  • retrenching a homosexual employee in a Christian organisation, school, church or children’s home;
  • speaking, publishing or broadcasting statements against homosexuality,
  • refusing to allow a homosexual volunteer to work as a boy scout master or children’s home assistant;
  • refusing, as an employer, to give a homosexual employee’s partner the same pension and other benefits as a marriage partner;
  • refusing to allow a homosexual to adopt a child or gain child custody in a divorce dispute.

Furthermore, homosexuals may demand ‘affirmative action’ in organisations that have refused them in the past: “It is not unfair discrimination to take measures designed to protect or advance persons or categories of persons disadvantaged by unfair discrimination or the members of such groups or categories of persons.”

“Religion, conscience and belief” makes it quite possible for anyone to take a Catholic, say, to court, for maintaining, by the spoken or written word, that his religion is the only true one, or for upholding any moral principles that the other party does not agree with. A pro-choice woman going for an abortion could use the Act to take a pro-lifer to court for demonstrating outside the abortion clinic, holding placards that the pro-choicer could easily classify as `hurtful’-hate speech. And it is worth mentioning that in the case of hate speech the respondant will be given little opportunity to prove that what he affirmed was justified, since the conditions that permit such justification are excluded in the case of hate speech and “harassment”. If the court decides that what said was “hurtful” then that’s it.

Furthermore, this clause makes it extremely difficult for any group (a Church for example) to require that its members respect its principles and moral norms. An example: if an unmarried couple living in sin come to the Communion rail and are refused Communion, they could take the priest to court on two counts: discrimination on grounds of religion, conscience and belief, and harassment. I have heard the counter-argument that churches will be exempt from such treatment since they are international organisations and hence legally above such coercion. In reply to that let me quote Mohseen Moosa, ANC chairman of the committee which drew up the Act. Commenting on the opposition to the Act by the ACDP, opposition which was based precisely on the effect such an Act would have on the functioning of the churches, he said: “This Bill does not exempt anybody. Whether you are part of one or another religion….or ideological system or traditional cultural system, or whether you believe in gender equality in one way or another, for whatever reason, whatever philosophy you hold, if you live in the South African society, this Bill does not exempt you. And so the ACDP cannot expect the religious community to be exempt.” Ominous words indeed.

“Gender” and “sex”, coupled with the ‘affirmative action’ given above, will oblige employers or anyone in positions of responsibility to give preference to women in male occupations, eg the army, sports, etc. As feminism fades elsewhere, it has been given a legal shot in the arm here.

How will this Act work out in practice? Besides fuelling racial friction for years to come it will give carte blanche in South Africa to those groups working for the dissolution of the natural law and its replacement with a brave new world of their own making. I doubt we will have a militant antireligious dictatorship à la Joseph Stalin, but what we will have is a situation where, in a land apparently bursting with freedoms and rights, we will not dare to speak or act in public as we think, not even on the most fundamental spiritual and moral issues. It will be a claustrophobic world (presuming South Africa holds together that long), where the pressure to deny one’s Faith by omission will be as strong as in any persecution, but more subtle. Personally, I think it a Hobson’s choice between that and Stalin.