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Racist and Unconstitutional Children’s Act – Prejudicing Black Fathers in South Africa

Unpacking Section 21 of the Children’s Act: A Constitutional Analysis on Black Fathers’ Rights

The issue at hand revolves around Section 21(d) of the Children’s Act, which imposes specific legal and financial requirements on black fathers, potentially leading to damages payments under customary law. This situation raises concerns regarding the potential violation of constitutional principles and the perpetuation of racial discrimination. Fathers 4 Justice South Africa aims to critically examine the constitutionality and racial implications of these provisions, exploring their impact on black fathers within the legal framework. The analysis will delve into the discriminatory nature of the additional requirements imposed on black fathers, the financial implications, and the associated damages payments, questioning their relevance to child maintenance. Additionally, F4J SA will address the concerning language used, such as the characterization of black mothers, and the implications it carries. Ultimately, this examination seeks to determine whether the described legal provisions are indeed unconstitutional and racially discriminatory.
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Please keep in mind that section 9 of the constitution (pg 5 /10) has this to say about prejudice:
Section Nine of the Constitution of South Africa guarantees equality before the law and freedom from discrimination to the people of South Africa. This equality right is the first right listed in the Bill of Rights. It prohibits both discrimination by the government and discrimination by private persons; however, it also allows for affirmative action to be taken to redress past unfair discrimination.

Section 9 specifically states the following:
9.
(1) Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
(2) Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.
(3) The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language, and birth.
(4) No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3). National legislation must be enacted to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination.
(5) Discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair.

Under the constitution of South Africa, you are entitled to remedy if your constitutional rights have been infringed. See here for a detailed explanation.

Under Section 21d of the Children’s Act, black fathers are uniquely required to satisfy additional legal and financial obligations, including paying damages under customary law—requirements not imposed on fathers of other races.

It is argued that:

A. Imposing additional requirements solely on black fathers constitutes unlawful discrimination based on race, violating constitutional guarantees of equal treatment under the law.

B. Subjecting black fathers to separate legal processes and obligations not applied to other fathers violates constitutional rights to equal protection without regard to race.

C. Imposing additional financial burdens exclusively on black fathers violates constitutional protections against race-based discrimination.

D. Requiring damages payments from black fathers to the maternal grandfather serves no child maintenance purposes and enables financial abuse, violating rights against arbitrary violations of parental resources.

Analysis:

a. Blatant Racism and Unconstitutionality:

Section 21(d) appears to discriminate against black fathers by imposing additional legal and financial requirements solely based on their race. This is arguably a clear violation of constitutional principles that advocate for equality and non-discrimination. The Constitution of South Africa underscores the importance of treating all individuals fairly and impartially under the law. Therefore, subjecting black fathers to distinct legal obligations solely based on their race is likely to be deemed unconstitutional.

b. Unequal Legal Requirements:

If black fathers are subject to legal requirements that fathers of other races do not have to meet, it raises questions about the constitutionality of such distinctions. The principle of equality before the law is fundamental in constitutional jurisprudence. If disparate legal standards are applied based on race, it may be considered a breach of this principle, thus rendering the provision unconstitutional.

c. Financial Disparities:

The imposition of additional and separate financial requirements on black fathers may also be constitutionally problematic. If these financial obligations are not justified by a compelling state interest and disproportionately affect black fathers, it could be seen as an infringement on their right to equality.

d. Damages Payment and Financial Abuse:

The requirement for damages payments that do not directly contribute to child maintenance raises concerns about financial abuse. If these payments benefit the maternal grandfather rather than the child, it may be argued that the provision deviates from its intended purpose and could be considered an unjustifiable burden on black fathers.

e. Mental and Psychological Abuse:

Describing black mothers as “damaged” not only raises concerns about the use of derogatory language but also suggests a form of mental and psychological abuse. Such language may contribute to the degradation of black mothers and, by extension, perpetuate harmful stereotypes, potentially violating constitutional protections against degrading treatment.

f. Implications of Inferiority:

The differential treatment of black mothers implies an inferior status, insinuating that they are not deserving of the same respect as mothers of other races. This not only contradicts the principles of equality but also fosters a discriminatory mindset that goes against constitutional values.

g. Exemption of Black Fathers from Damaged Label:

The fact that black fathers are seemingly exempt from being labelled as “damaged” raises questions about the unequal attribution of responsibility in cases of extramarital pregnancies. This may reinforce gender stereotypes and contribute to an imbalanced view of parental responsibilities, potentially running afoul of constitutional equality principles.

Conclusion:
In conclusion, the examination of Section 21(d) of the Children’s Act reveals potential constitutional and racial concerns. The imposition of additional legal and financial requirements on black fathers, coupled with the questionable damages payments, raises doubts about the provision’s constitutionality. Moreover, the use of derogatory language towards black mothers and the implied inferiority of their parental status further underscores the need for a critical review of these traditional, cultural, and legal provisions. It is reasonable to argue that the described aspects of Section 21(d) may be deemed unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. A thorough reassessment of these provisions in light of constitutional principles is imperative to ensure that the law upholds the values of equality, fairness, and non-discrimination for all individuals, regardless of their race, culture, tradition, or parental status.

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