Equality Court

Learn what your equality rights are, what the jurisdiction of the equality court is, and how to lodge a complaint in relation to equality matters.


Courts are courts designed to deal with matters covered by the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000, also known as the Equality Act.


This Act places a positive duty on the state and all persons (natural and juristic) to promote equality, it does so by:


  1. Giving effect to the letter and spirit of the Constitution in particular;



                      (a) the equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms by every person;

                      (b) the promotion of equality;

                      (c) the prevention and prohibition of unfair discrimination; and

                      (d) the prohibition of hate speech and harassment


  1. Providing remedies for victims of unfair discrimination;
  2. Educating the public by raising awareness on the importance of promoting equality and overcoming unfair discrimination, hate speech and harassment; and
  3. Facilitating compliance with international law obligations.

What are equality courts?

Equality courts are specialised courts designated to hear matters relating to unfair discrimination, hate speech and harassment.

Although the equality court is a formal court sitting, the rules and procedures are more relaxed than in normal courts.

Where to find them?

The Equality Courts are in the same building as the Magistrate’s Court.  Each has a clerk called an Equality Court Clerk whose been trained to help the public with any equality matters.

A person can find their nearest magistrate court on the following website:


Who can institute proceedings in the equality court?

Proceedings in the equality court may be instituted by:

  • Any person acting in their own interests;
  • Any person acting on behalf of another person who cannot act in their own name;
  • Any person acting as a member of, or in the interests of a group or class of persons;
  • Any person acting in the interest of the public;
  • Any association or organization or body acting in the interests of its members; or
  • The South African Human Rights Commission or the Commission on Gender Equality. *

 *These commissions are required to assist complainants in bringing complaint to the equality courts and to conduct investigations into cases and advise complainants.

Note: In order to institute proceedings in the equality court it is not a requirement that one must have legal representation.

What happens to those who do not pay their court mandated maintenance?

Parents who default on their maintenance order can be held liable in the following ways:

  1. be blacklisted at credit bureaus;
  2. be jailed for a period not longer than 3 years;
  3. be imprisoned with the option of paying a fine
  4. have interest added to their maintenance arrears; or
  5. have their property or salary attached.

Note: If the parent who's liable for maintenance can't be traced, the court can issue an order to a cellphone service provider to provide the court with their contact details.

Does one have to pay to institute proceedings at the equality court?

The equality courts are free of and thus a complainant does not have to pay any court fees.

How to lodge a complaint in the equality court

The process of lodging a complaint at the Equality court is simple and straight forward. In each of the designated courts there is a trained equality court clerk who will assist the complainant with completing the necessary forms that are obtainable at any equality court.

What are the powers of the equality court?

If the court finds in favour of the complainant, there are several "remedies" that the court can grant. These can be an order for:

  1. An unconditional apology;
  2. An instruction to the respondent to do or not do something, or restraining an unfair discriminatory practice;
  3. Payment of damages to you for actual financial loss, loss of dignity, or pain and suffering (including emotional and psychological suffering);
  4. Payment of a fine to an appropriate organisation; or
  5. A declaratory order.


Note: The court can also confirm any settlement the parties may have reached. The court will check that this settlement is fair and that the complainant hasn't been forced into signing it.