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DearSA-FORSA
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Background to FOR SA

Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) is a non-profit, legal advocacy group with a mandate to promote and protect the freedom of religion rights granted by the South African Constitution. We have an emphasis on helping people (from the religious sector, in particular) to engage in the democratic process outlined in our Constitution and to have their voices heard.

To this end, FOR SA examines every piece of legislation, regulation and report emanating from Government and Chapter 9 institutions to analyse any potential threats we may perceive to our religious freedom rights. We then help people to understand them and to respond appropriately.

We also engage in litigation, either as a party or as an amicus curiae in cases where we believe adverse legal precedents may be set.

Over the last 7 years, we have succeeded in contacting and building relationship with most of the faith groupings and religious organisations across South Africa. Most recently in the Lockdown regulation matter, in discussions with Government (and in the High Court case we initiated against the COGTA Minister), we have represented between 15 – 18,5 million people of faith from across the religious/faith spectrum.

We are also often contacted by a wide range of media for comment where religious freedom issues are involved.

PEPUDA Amendment Bill – submissions

In the matter of the PEPUDA Amendment Bill, we have identified numerous areas of concern where we foresee religious freedoms being negatively impacted should this be passed into law in its current form. We have summarised these in a short video series – and have also produced template submissions for both individuals and organisations.

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SUMMARY

The prevention of unfair discrimination
The first part of the Bill (clauses 1 to 3) aims to improve the protection of complainants against discrimination.

This will be done by broadening and amending the scope of the definition of ‘equality’ by indicating that it includes equal rights and access to resources, opportunities, benefits and advantages.

The definition of ‘discrimination’ will also be broadened by indicating that intention to discriminate is not required. It is the effect that matters, the department said, and this makes it easier for complainants to make out a case of discrimination.

The bill plans further to amend 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 is extended to any person who causes, encourages or requests another person to discriminate against others. This enables legal proceedings against such a person.
  • Provision is made in the bill for joint and several liability which entails that both the employer and the employee can be held liable for discrimination.

The amendment bill will also insert section 9A in the Act which will prohibit retaliation against a person who exercised his or her remedies in terms of the Act.

The promotion of equality
The second part of the bill (clauses 4 to 9) seeks to do the following:

  • Clarify and reduce certain duties relating to the promotion of equality of the state and public bodies, for example by not requiring municipalities to provide assistance, advice and training on issues of equality so that they can focus on their main mandate namely municipal service delivery to the people.
  • State departments (national and provincial), municipalities and certain public bodies will in terms of the Bill have to provide certain information in their strategic, corporate and business plans instead of having to prepare and develop additional and separate equality plans and action plans as required by the Act.
  • Strengthen accountability for the implementation of measures aimed at promoting equality by ensuring that Annual Reports of organs of state contain information on what they have done in this regard.
  • To enhance co-ordination and prevent overlapping actions and duties, a Minister must, before issuing regulations and codes of practice or charters, have regard to other measures aimed at promoting equality which are already in place before additional duties are conferred upon bodies. For this purpose, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development must make available on its website a list of all the codes issued by the ministers.
  • To strengthen enforcement of the provisions of the Act, the Bill now criminalises the willful submission of false information by any person.