Commencing on 6 March, the South Gauteng High Court will hear the case of Jon Qwelane, journalist and political figure, for an article he wrote eight years ago, titled ‘Call me names, gay is not okay’.
The public outcry around the homophobic and prejudicial contents of the article resulted in the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) approaching the Equality Court to seek a public apology and damages from Mr Qwelane on the grounds that the contents of his article constitute prohibited hate speech in terms of section 10(1) of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 ("the Equality Act"). Mr Qwelane has since mounted a constitutional challenge to the hate speech provisions of the Equality Act.
As ‘friend of the court’, The Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA) will make submissions to the court regarding the importance of the relevant provisions of the Equality Act in stemming verbal and physical violence, and argue that these provisions meet constitutional muster. PsySSA will also highlight the pernicious psychological and social effects of the speech contained in Mr Qwelane’s article and its impact on LGBTQ communities and on society at large.
“Mr Qwelane’s article was a flagrant attack on the dignity of LGBT people that promotes discrimination. It is now time that he apologises for the hurt and harm his words have caused. We are hopeful that the court will act against this hate speech, and, in doing so, send a message that utterances which denigrate and dehumanise people, undermine the advancement of equality and discrimination for all”, says Prof Juan Nel, Past President of PsySSA.
A strong civil society presence is expected at the court hearing, including PsySSA members, People Opposing Women Abuse, LGBT activists and organisations, and other social justice allies.