The recognition of sign language as the 12th official language of South Africa is in the advanced stage to be officiated.The constitutional change paving the way for the officialization of sign language was announced on Tuesday by Justice and Corrections Minister Ronald Lamola. This came after the Cabinet resolved in May to approve the suggestion made in 2017 by the constitutional review committee of the Parliament that South African Sign Language be included as the nation’s 12th official language.
One group that has stepped up its push for the designation of South African Sign Language (SASL) as the nation’s twelfth official language is the South African National Deaf Association (Sanda). “The recognition of SASL will accelerate and deepen full inclusion of SASL as a linguistic and cultural right of deaf people through which they can participate on an equal basis with others,” said Jabulani Blose, chief executive of Sanda
Lamola’s department voiced the expectation that sign language and the deaf culture will become more accepted in South Africa as a result of the official recognition of South African Sign Language. The amendment, according to the statement, was a step toward ensuring that people with hearing impairments may enjoy their rights and be treated with dignity on an equal basis.
The Constitution will declare the country’s commitment to fostering the growth and use of all official languages as well as the Khoi, Nama, and San languages, which are not yet official languages, should the modifications be put into effect.
Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Swati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Xhosa, and Zulu are currently South Africa’s 11 official languages. South African Sign Language is already recognized as a home language by the Department of Basic Education.
Lamola states that the Eighteenth Constitution Amendment Bill 2022’s main goal is to change Section 6 of the Constitution to make provisions for the South African Sign Language’s official language status.
The Pan South African Language Board has the authority to foster the growth and use of various languages, including sign language, and to establish favorable conditions for their use. ”Persons with hearing disabilities continue to experience high levels of marginalization and exclusion due to social, psychological, and structural challenges,” reads the background note to the amendment.
The department believes that individuals with hearing impairments encounter marginalization and exclusion in social settings, at work, in schools, in places of worship, and at numerous leisure, cultural, and sporting 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,” the department said
Disability discrimination is occurring as a result of this restriction on the social involvement and integration of deaf people in society as well as the influence it has on their right to free expression.
“The deaf community will finally have a voice and become an integral part of their own country and communities. It will promote inclusion, and substantive equality and prevent or eliminate unfair discrimination on the ground of disability,” the department said.
“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”. The deadline for submitting comments on the proposed modification is on Wednesday, August 31.