Misha Munim

Misha Munim YLIP Intern


I worked with the Gender Equality Programme and supported LHR’s work as a member of the Hate Crimes Working Group. During my placement, the Department of Justice in South Africa released a new piece of legislation for public comment: The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill. For the first time in the country’s history, the government drafted legislation exclusively devoted to criminalizing hate crimes and hate speech. The draft bill quickly became the crux of debate because of its hate speech provision, which many stakeholders saw as overbroad and raising concerns about freedom of expression rights protected under the Constitution. While South Africa’s Equality (civil) Courts typically had jurisdiction to regulate hate speech, the new bill would now grant this jurisdiction to criminal courts.

South Africa is a young democracy, since apartheid ended in 1994, and I was fortunate to play a role in the democratic process to comment on the draft bill. I published a critical analysis paper through the Heinrich Boll Foundation, an international organization that promotes government-civil society dialogue. In the paper, I engaged in a wide range of legal analysis, such as the state’s requirement to prove a person’s “intention” to commit a hate speech offence under the criminal law standard of proof: “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This paper helped lay the groundwork for LHR’s advocacy around the bill. I was able to attend roundtable discussions with government representatives and draft press releases and briefing notes to promote LHR’s position on the bill. Because of the collaborative advocacy efforts of civil society stakeholders, the Department of Justice planned to revise the bill to make it more reflective of issues raised during the democratic engagement process.

Cape Town is delightful and full of culture and adventure, and South Africa is one of my favourite places in the world. Given its wounded past of apartheid, resilience and a strong spirit to fight for justice can be felt everywhere in the country. I have learned far more than I contributed, and I thank YLIP and South Africa for giving me the most rewarding experience of a lifetime.