October 5, 2017

Is it illegal to protest by not standing when your country’s National Anthem is being played?

I have slowly been following the story that has been unfolding regarding American NFL star Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand when the American National Anthem is played as a form of protest against racism.

This raised a question as to whether it is illegal to not stand for the playing of your country’s national anthem while the flag is being raised. Further, if it is considered to be illegal, could one provide a defence in mitigation thereof?

Colin Kaepernick’s protest has raised quite a debate around the world and there are some that would argue that there is a legal obligation imposed on a party to stand for the singing of the American National Anthem. However, by the very wording of the US code, there is no legal obligation on parties to stand for the singing of the American National Anthem. The US Code is merely seen as a guide, and citizens can choose whether they wish to follow the guidelines set out therein.

This made me curious to find out if we had a law in South Africa which dealt with standing for the playing of our National Anthem and the raising of our flag.

It appears that while we have protocols which regulate the playing of our National Anthem and the raising of our flag, there is no legislation that requires a South African to stop and stand for the National Anthem and the raising of our flag.

While it may upset people to see someone not standing for the national anthem as a form of protest, our constitution protects our citizens’ rights to their beliefs and opinions as well as the freedom of expression.

Therefore, while protesting during the singing of the national anthem may be seen as controversial, if one looks at the outcry in the US, it is not illegal to do so.

Author: Marisa De Aguiar

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