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Lodging a complaint in the Equality Court: Equality/Discrimination

If you think you have been unfairly discriminated against, either directly or indirectly, on the basis of one or more of the prohibited grounds or feel that you are the victim of hate speech or harassment, contact the nearest Equality Court for assistance.

Forms of discrimination may include: race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

Proceedings under the Equality Act may be instituted by:

  • any person acting in his/her own interest
  • any person acting on behalf of another person who cannot act in his/her own name
  • any person acting as a member of, or in the interest of, a group or class of persons
  • any person acting in the public interest
  • any person who is unemployed
  • any association acting in the interests of its members, or
  • the South African Human Rights Commission or the Commission for Gender Equity.

The Equality Act does not apply in the workplace (i.e. this is covered by the Employment Equity Act).

Steps to follow


  • Approach your nearest Magistrates’ court and ask for the Equality court, you will find a clerk of the court who will give you a Form 2 to complete
  • Form 2 is the Form to use when commencing proceedings at the equality court.
  • If you need assistance in completing the form, the clerk of the equality court (clerk) will assist you or you can go to the offices of the South African Human Rights Commission or the Commission for Gender Equality near you for assistance.


  • The clerk of the equality court must then notify the respondent (s) (the person (s) against whom you are lodging your complaint) about the complaint within 7 days using Form 3.


  • The Respondent (s) has 10 days within which to reply
  • Should the Respondent wish to state his/ her side of the case he/she will be given a copy of Form 4 which they must complete and return to the clerk within 10 days.
  • The Clerk has 7 days from receipt of the response to notify the complainant of the respondent’s response.


  • Within 3 days of the expiry of the period within which the respondent(s) is meant to reply, the clerk must refer the matter to the Presiding Officer (the Magistrate or Judge who will hear the matter).
  • The Presiding Officer has 7 days to decide whether the matter is to be heard at the equality court or whether it should be referred to an alternative forum such as the South African Human Rights Commission.

If the Presiding Officer decides to refer the matter to the alternative forum, the clerk must notify the parties of the referral.
The alternative forum must deal with the matter as expeditiously as possible.

If it fails to do so or fails to resolve the matter, it must refer the matter back to the court with a report.

If the matter is referred back, the Court has 7 days within which to give instructions as to how the matter should be dealt with.


  • If the Presiding Officer decides to hear the matter, the clerk must within 3 days assign a date for the directions hearing.

At the directions hearing, the Presiding Officer will sort out issues such as: when can parties come to trial, does anyone need an interpreter, should Assessors be used etc.


  • Hearing

Legal framework

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, Section 9 and The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, No. 4 of 2000 and related regulations are available on this page: http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/acts_full.html

Service standard

  • The time-frame for the proceedings depends on the complexity of the complaint. It is, however, the intention of the Legislature that these cases should be finalised promptly.
  • You should be treated with dignity, equality and respect and given the advice you need in a reasonable time. If you want legal representation, you can contact the offices of the South African Human Rights Commission and Commission on Gender Equality.
  • If you are dissatisfied with an order made by the equality court, lodge an appeal with either the High Court or the Supreme Court of Appeal or directly to the Constitutional Court.
  • Whenever conflicting decisions are made by presiding officers in respect of matters relating to unlisted prohibited grounds, the Minister may refer the specific case to the Supreme Court of Appeal or the Constitutional Court. If a presiding officer in a Magistrate’s Court rules on a ground of discrimination not listed by the Act, the decision must be submitted to the relevant High Court for review, once the proceedings have been finalised, in the prescribed manner. After consideration, the High Court must make a decision on the matter as it seems fit, within the scope of the Act.


Proceedings in the equality courts are free of charge. If you appoint an attorney, you will have to pay him or her at your own expense.

Forms to complete

All forms are available on this page: http://www.justice.gov.za/EQCact/eqc_forms.htm

Contact details

A list of all Magistrate Courts, designated as Equality Courts, are available on the website.
For contact details see: http://www.justice.gov.za/EQCact/eqc_courts.html

Contacts for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development:
Chief Directorate: Constitutional Development
Name: Mr Nthapeleleng Graphney Seleka
Designation: Senior State Law Adviser
Province: Gauteng
City/town: Pretoria
Tel: +27 (0) 12 357 8813
Fax2Email: +27 (0) 86 501 8018
E-mail: NSeleka@justice.gov.za
Physical address: Momentum Centre, Pretorius Street, Pretoria, 0001
Postal address: Private Bag X81, PTA, 0001

Updated: 2012/08/14