Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill (SA Sign Language)

Call for comments opened 19 July 2022 Share this page:

Submissions must be received by no later than 31 August 2022

Justice and Correctional Services

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services has published the draft Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill, 2022 (“the Bill”) for comment.

The purpose of the bill is to amend section 6 of the Constitution in order to provide for the recognition of South African Sign Language as an official language of the Republic of South Africa.

 

Comments must be submitted to Ms Regomoditswe Baloyi at RegoBaloyi@justice.gov.za by no later than Wednesday, 31 August 2022

For further information, please do not hesitate to contact Ms R Baloyi on (012) 406 4769.

In 2016, Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee adopted a report recommending that South African Sign Language form part of Section 6(1) which lists the official South African languages as opposed to being sighted in Section 6 (5)(a)(iii) as a language which must be developed.

The House adopted a resolution adopting the recommendation for the amendment of Section 6(1) of the Constitution to include South African Sign Language as one of the listed official languages in this section.

 

Cabinet Statement: 26 May 2022

In terms of section 6(1) of the Constitution, the official languages of the Republic of South Africa are: Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.

Section 6(5) of the Constitution places a duty on the Pan South African Language Board, established in terms of section 2 of the Pan South African Language Board Act, 1995 (Act No. 59 of 1995), to promote and create conditions for the development and use of, among others, sign language.

Persons with hearing disabilities continue to experience high levels of marginalisation and exclusion due to social, psychological and structural challenges. These experiences occur in social circles, at work, in schools, at places of worship and at many leisure, cultural and sport events. The challenges exist for different reasons, including a general lack of understanding of deaf culture, the lack of South African Sign Language proficiency and the availability of professional sign language interpreters. This limits the social participation and integration of deaf persons in society and impacts on their right to freedom of speech, which, amongst others, amounts to disability discrimination.

The recognition of South African Sign Language as an official language of the Republic of South Africa will result in the cultural acceptance of sign language and the deaf culture. Moreover, it is a step towards realising persons with hearing disabilities’ rights to equal enjoyment of rights and human dignity. The deaf community will finally have a voice and become an integral part of their own country and communities. It will promote inclusion, substantive equality and prevent or eliminate unfair discrimination on the ground of disability. Effect will also be given to the right to equality in terms of section 9 of the Constitution, which includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms.