Equality Courts were established in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 4 of 2000. They hold inquiries into alleged unfair discrimination, hate speech or harassment and its order has the effect of a civil judgment.
For example, a complainant has proceeded against her boss at the Randburg Equality Court, alleging sexual harassment. And in a hate speech case, another person is demanding R500 000 from a Defendant, who allegedly called him a ‘bloody kaffir’ and said to him ‘masend e akho’ (Zulu for ‘your testicles’).
Three Pretoria fathers who have embarked on a campaign to try to enforce their rights to be heard and to have access to their children have decided to turn to the Equality Court. This is the first time that fathers have headed to this court to be heard in such a case.
The fathers claim that fathers in general are being discriminated against by the Office of the Family Advocate in cases relating to access to children. They say they have only encountered doors being closed in their faces by the authorities, in spite of the new Children’s Act granting fathers more rights. They say there is unfair gender discrimination against them, especially by the Office of the Family Advocate. The fathers say in the papers that the Office of the Family Advocate discriminates against fathers in its findings, which it presents to court. This, they say, causes fathers emotional distress but also leaves them out of pocket as they have to continue fighting for their children at a huge cost.
You can take your complaint to the Equality Court at your local Magistrates’ Court. The Equality Courts seek to achieve the expeditious and informal processing of cases and to ensure access to justice to all persons.
They deal with complaints concerning:-
· Marital status
· Ethnic or social origin
· Colour of your skin
· Sexual orientation
· Religion, conscience & belief
· HIV status, or perceived status
· Economic or social status or
· Family responsibility and status
A wide range of persons can institute action:
· any person acting in his own interest;
· any person acting on behalf of another person who cannot act in their own name;
· any person acting as a member of, or in the interests of, a group or class of persons;
· any person acting in the public interest;
· any association acting in the interests of its members;
· the South African Human Rights Commission, or the Commission for Gender Equality.
It can make a wide range of orders, such as:
· an order for the payment of any damages in respect of any proven financial loss, including future loss, or in respect of impairment of dignity, pain and suffering or emotional and psychological suffering, as a result of the unfair discrimination, hate speech or harassment in question;
· an order restraining unfair discriminatory practices or directing that specific steps be taken to stop the unfair discrimination, hate speech or harassment;
· an order to make specific opportunities and privileges unfairly denied in the circumstances, available to the complainant in question;
· an order for the implementation of special measures to address the unfair discrimination, hate speech or harassment in question;
· an order that an unconditional apology be made;
· an appropriate order of a deterrent nature, including the recommendation to the appropriate authority, to suspend or revoke the licence of a person.