The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has confirmed it has received a complaint about the cancelled screening of the movie Inxeba: The Wound following protests, threats of intimidation and violence.
The film has received a lot of criticism following its release with claims that it violates the sanctity of cultural practices, which by nature are secret.
Those who object to the release of the film have said the content not only flouts cultural norms and practices but is also an inaccurate portrayal of the initiation practice.
SAHRC spokesperson Gail Smith said the commission was mindful that the rights to culture, dignity, protest and freedom of expression were protected in South African law, as it is globally.
Smith said: “The Constitution recognises the complexities relating to the right to freedom of expression. Through section 16 of the Constitution, freedom of expression provides special protections for freedom of the press and other media and freedom to receive or impart information or ideas and freedom of artistic creativity.”
“However, these rights cannot be exercised in a manner that infringes the exercise of other rights unlawfully and our courts have been careful to guide us on these issues.”
“The right to freedom of expression may include expression even in the form of art or film that can cause offence, or which may be shocking or disturbing.”
Smith said the protections of these rights are in place to allow artistic creativity to flourish and through such creativity to stimulate thought and opinion in democratic countries like South Africa.
She said in South Africa, the protections apply to art forms, including music and media.
“Where expression of this nature has to be limited, it must be shown to violate the rights to equality and dignity before it may be prohibited in or our law.”
“The right to protest is also protected by the Constitution. However, the right to protest must be exercised without destruction or violence. Based on the complaint to the commission and our monitoring of reports of intimidation, threats of violence and death threats made in relation to the screening of Inxeba: The Wound is condemned.”
Smith called on all who feel aggrieved by Inxeba: The Wound to exercise their right to protest within the confines of the law and to engage more constructively about the concerns to ensure that while the protests demonstrate their objection, the act of protest remains lawful and in accordance with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.