New discrimination and equality laws proposed for South Africa

The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has invited interested parties to provide written comments on the proposed changes to promote equality and prevent unfair discrimination plot.

In a statement released on Friday (March 26), the department stated that the changes address two key elements:

  • Preventing unfair discrimination;
  • Promoting equality.

Preventing unfair discrimination

The first part of the draft law (paragraphs 1 to 3) aims to improve the protection of complainants against discrimination.

This is achieved by expanding and changing the scope of the definition of “equality” by indicating that it encompasses equal rights and access to resources, opportunities, benefits and advantages.

The definition of “discrimination” is also broadened by pointing out this Intention to discriminate is not required. Impact matters, the department said, and this makes it easier for complainants to spot a case of discrimination.

The bill further changes Section 6 of the Act, which deals with the general prohibition of unfair discrimination, by adding two new subsections as follows:

  • The scope of the prohibition of unfair discrimination extends to any person who induces, encourages or solicits another person to discriminate against others. This enables legal proceedings against such a person.
  • The bill provides for joint and several liability, which provides that both the employer and the employee can be held liable for discrimination.

The draft amendment also adds Section 9A to the law, which prohibits retaliation against any person who has exercised his or her legal remedies within the meaning of the law.

Promoting equality

The second part of the bill (paragraphs 4 to 9) aims to do the following:

  • Clarify and reduce certain obligations related to promoting equality between the state and public authorities, for example by not requiring municipalities to provide support, advice and training on equality issues so that they can focus on their main mandate, which is the provision of municipal services Services to the people.
  • State departments (national and provincial), municipalities and certain public bodies are required to provide certain information in their strategic, corporate and business plans for the purposes of the bill, rather than creating and developing additional and separate equality plans and action plans as required by The Act.
  • Strengthening accountability for the implementation of policies promoting gender equality by ensuring that state bodies’ annual reports contain information on what they have done in this regard.
  • In order to improve coordination and avoid duplication of policies and duties, a minister must, before issuing regulations and codes of conduct or charters, consider other measures to promote equality that are already in place before the bodies are given additional duties. To this end, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs must provide a list of all codes issued by ministers on its website.
  • To strengthen enforcement of the law’s provisions, the bill now criminalizes the willful transmission of false information by a person.

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