Repository logo

How should biblically-based homophobic/hate speech be treated in South Africa, legally and socially?

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



In a country like South Africa where 80% of the population is Christian, many of them quite conservative, and where homophobia is common, it seems likely (given the common biblically-based belief that homosexuality is a sin) that much homophobia stems from scripture, and translates into words, sometimes actions and ultimately harm to the LGBTQI+ community. In this dissertation I argue that Biblically-based homophobic hate speech should not be treated (either in terms of social disapproval or legal punishment) any less severely than any other form of hate speech. The reasons I have focused on Christianity in this dissertation are i) that I hope to help affect jurisprudence in a manner that impacts my own society, ii) that I wanted to start by dealing with the main religious influencer in my own context before branching out more broadly to other religions or geographies and iii) since Christianity is overwhelmingly dominant in South Africa, it is the obvious candidate for my attention in this regard. Given that evidence of the harm caused by homophobic hate speech is fairly unambiguous, and that openly homophobic statements are uttered publicly by both believers and leaders of Christian groups on a regular basis, one might expect a large number of cases to be reported to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The SAHRC’s mandate is, after all, precisely to deal with harm-causing hate speech. Yet very few cases (a few dozen per year) of homophobic hate speech (emanating from whatever source) are reported to the SAHRC. Of those it seems that some cases that arguably have merit are turned away. Simultaneously, annual cases of racist hate speech reported to the SAHRC number in the hundreds – far outstripping their homophobic counterparts. It seems that the legal sanction applied to homophobic hate speech, religiously based or otherwise, is too low in gross terms, given the pervasive nature of discrimination reported by LGBTQI+ people. It also seems that, compared to racist hate speech in particular, homophobic hate speech is vastly under-represented in the reporting stakes. I hope to paint a picture that can help to inform both legislation and jurisprudence in this regard, to support the creation of laws that moderate homophobia, reduce harm, and influence culture to create a safer environment for LGBTQI+ South Africans.


Master of Arts in Philosophy. University of KwaZulu-Natal. Pietermaritzburg, 2019.