Hate speech legislation overdue


The apology of the medical doctor for making racist statements in a conversation with an employee rang hollow and lacked sincerity. It appeared that the apology was made not because of any sense of real remorse, but because it exposed the doctor and put at risk his profession and earning ability.

Much more needs to be done by the doctor for the population to believe he is truly sorry.

While to err is human and to forgive is divine, even in this season of Divali and a few days away from Christmas it is a far reach to forgive him his trespasses.

I can only hope some good comes out of this negative example of the worst of behaviour.

In the past when similar statements have been made by others, only those who were public officers were punished by the State. So, police officers, doctors or nurses at the hospitals, teachers, etc, are disciplined for their statements.

For those persons who make similar statements in private practice, there are no consequences. So a businessman, or doctor, can say whatever he or she wants without fearing any consequence.

The Equal Opportunity Act 2000 (EOA) Section 7 states: ‘(1) A person shall not otherwise than in private, do any act which-(a) is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of persons; (b) is done because of the gender, race, ethnicity, origin or religion of the other person or of some or all of the persons in the group; and (c) which is done with the intention of inciting gender, racial or religious hatred.’

Therefore, it is clear that the statement of the doctor clearly offended this section of the act.

Given that the over the years statements such as this one have been made and there is no indication that racists and other offensive statements will end, there is a need to seriously consider appropriate legislation to alter the offensive behaviour of citizens.

In the past, laws have been passed to affect how we use mobile phones in vehicles, the use of seatbelts in vehicles and the use of cigarettes in public spaces. All these respective laws were introduced to affect how citizens behave and forced change for the benefit of society.

The time is overdue for the Government to introduce hate speech legislation to force persons, regardless of private or public, to behave responsibly or face the consequences.

Pundit Satyanand Maharaj