Homeless victimisation in South Africa and its potential inclusion in the Hate Crime and Hate Speech Bill

Author: Jean-Paul Pophaim

ISSN: 1996-2118
Affiliations: MSocSci (UFS), Lecturer in Criminology, University of the Free State
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 34 Issue 2, p. 259 – 280


Homelessness is widely seen as a persistent social issue, one that has existed for many years. Although notably under-researched, there exist some reports of severe experiences of victimisation. Due to the very nature of their lifestyle and other external factors, homeless individuals can expect to, and often do experience violence and victimisation at disproportionate rates. Furthermore, homeless individuals are commonly viewed as a surplus population or a disposable mass that cannot possibly be regarded as what society considers an ‘ideal victim’. With the presence of negative socially constructed labels, they are frequently exposed to harsh treatment by other members of society and consequently stripped of their basic constitutional rights, where in many contexts, their very existence is criminalised. Protective legislation at a domestic level is a neglected area and is yet to align with some major international developments, where homeless victimisation has already been identified as a serious enough problem that arguments for its inclusion under hate crime legislation have already started to surface. This paper therefore aims to put forward an argument regarding the plausibility of including the status of homelessness as a new category under the developing Hate Crime and Hate Speech Bill of South Africa.