The right to freedom of thought in South Africa

Book chapter


Jones, M. 2024. The right to freedom of thought in South Africa. in: Shiner, B. and O’Callaghan, P. (ed.) The Cambridge Handbook on The Right to Freedom of Thought Cambridge, UK Cambridge University Press.
Chapter titleThe right to freedom of thought in South Africa
AuthorsJones, M.
Abstract

This chapter analyses the scope and possible further development of the right to freedom of thought in South Africa. Although still facing a myriad of social issues, three decades since the abolition of Apartheid has seen the country establishing itself as a liberal democracy with a highly respected judiciary. It boasts a progressive constitution with a robust Bill of Rights, which specifically includes the right to freedom of thought albeit as part of the right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion in Section 15. From an analysis of relevant case law it is clear that FOT is not yet seen as a fundamental right on its own. Section 15 seems to be understood as mainly referring to the right to freedom of religion, or as some prefer, freedom from religion. At first glance it may seem that coercive proselytising, archaic witchcraft and blasphemy legislation comprise the main issues for FOT in South Africa. The chapter argues that this is too narrow an interpretation, and that the right, although specifically contained under the umbrella of religious freedom in the Constitution, also forms part and parcel of other fundamental rights such as equality, speech, and privacy. To that end, the chapter uses the four attributes of the right to freedom of thought as formulated by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and considers to what extent, in aggregate, South Africa lives up to the ideal. It concludes that an enabling environment for freedom of thought not only exists, but has the potential to be further developed in South Africa.

KeywordsHuman Rights; Freedom of Thought; South Africa; Freedom of Speech; Religious freedom; Liberal democracy
Sustainable Development Goals10 Reduced inequalities
16 Peace, justice and strong institutions
Middlesex University ThemeSustainability
Book titleThe Cambridge Handbook on The Right to Freedom of Thought
EditorsShiner, B. and O’Callaghan, P.
PublisherCambridge University Press
Place of publicationCambridge, UK
Copyright Year2024
Publication dates
Print2024
Publication process dates
AcceptedFeb 2024
Deposited10 Apr 2024
Output statusAccepted
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Open
LanguageEnglish
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