The Doctrine of Subjective Rights, the Actio Iniuriarum and the Constitution: A Convergent Doctrinal Basis for the Law of Personality
Author: CJ Visser
Affiliations: LLB (UJ) LLM PhD (Wits), Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand
Source: Stellenbosch Law Review, Volume 32 Issue 2, 2021, p. 272 – 287
This article revisits the doctrinal basis of the positive law in protecting the human personality as a legal interest given the approach adopted by the judiciary. In terms of this approach, based on common law and constitutional considerations, the human personality is not articulated as a composite interest (ie the human personality is not doctrinally conceptualised as consisting of various discrete personality rights). Arguably, such an approach denigrates the traditional view that the human personality ought to be protected as a composite interest in law. Therefore, this article interrogates more carefully the doctrinal basis of the law of personality from the perspective of the common law and the Constitution in the light of the controversial nature of the judiciary’s recent approach. In this regard, the article finds that there is an overlap, or more specifically a convergence, between common-law personality rights (as premised on the doctrine of subjective rights and the actio iniuriarum) and fundamental constitutional rights regarding the human personality. The article demonstrates that in terms of scope (ie the various personality interests recognised in positive law) and framework (ie the differentiation and adjudication of the different personality interests in positive law), both the common law and the Constitution attest to the composite nature of the human personality as a legal interest. On this basis, I argue that such convergence enables the creation of a single and integrated doctrinal basis for the post-constitutional operation of the human personality as a legal interest. It is further argued that such a single and integrated doctrinal basis provides the foundation for the further constitutionalisation of the law of personality in terms of a transformative constitutionalism paradigm and the horizontal application of the Constitution.