Equality Courts

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Briefing Document: Equality Act and equality courts

The Right to equality is one of the most fundamental rights in our new constitutional order. The rights to equality as enshrined in our Constitution, forms the backbone of our democracy. Section 9 of the Constitution accordingly provides for the promotion of equality. It further provides for the enactment of a legislation preventing and prohibiting unfair discrimination.

Pursuant to the provisions for section 9 (4) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, the Promotion of Equality and the Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 (Act No. 4 of 2000) was enacted and came into operation in September 2000.

The main objectives of this Act are, among others:

  • To fulfil South Africa’s international obligations under binding treaties. Among these obligations are those specified in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which is commonly known as CEDAW.
  • To promote equality
  • To prevent and prohibit unfair discrimination on one or more prohibited grounds, including. but not limited to, sex and gender.
  • To prevent and prohibit Hate Speech
  • To prevent and prohibit Harassment,
  • To establish equality courts, etc.

The Act further provides for the designation of equality courts. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has so far designated a large number of courts as equality courts.

It is the Department’s intention that equality court services should be available at all courts throughout the entire country. This will be achieved through the training of Presiding Officers and Clerks of the equality court as well as their appointment in terms of the Equality Act. This will solve the problem of our people, particularly the most vulnerable groups, travelling long distances to lodge complaints in the equality courts.

Other Chapter 9 Institutions can assist complainants in lodging complaints in the equality courts. These includes, among others, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission on Gender Equality.