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Skin: Learning Resource by Film Education

Maintaining Racial Purity

It is all very well defining people’s races but the entire project is pointless if you are not going to do something to stop people of different races falling in love, going to bed together and having children.  What are you going to do about this worrying tendency?  Your task is to draw up a law that will attempt to stop people spoiling the grand Apartheid plan because of their messy affections and passions.  

What do you think the consequences of your law might be?  Will it prove effective?

To check your answer click on the following link to read more:

It should not be a surprise that some the first laws to be passed by the Nationalist Afrikaner government elected in 1948 were designed to regulate people’s sexual relationships.  Nothing could more fundamentally undermine their apartheid project than the general mixing of the population. 

There was, alas, nothing new about such concerns.  South African ‘Immorality’ laws had been passed in 1927and 1936 in an attempt to outlaw extra-marital sexual relationships between whites and ‘native’ Africans, but now the Afrikaners went one better and outlawed both mixed-race marriages and extra-marital sex between white people and ‘coloured’ people.  (Remember ‘coloured’ was an official racial group referring to the people, principally living on the Cape who owed their origins to Malays brought in by the Dutch to boost the labour-pool when the colony was still young.)  The respective laws were respectively the 1949 Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act and the 1950 Immorality Act. 

The Mixed Marriages Act was particularly cruel allowing the police to spy on and arrest people who might have been together for many years.  People found guilty of breaking this law were often jailed and, again thanks to the logic of Apartheid, black or coloured people often would often face a longer sentence than their white partners.

Later these rules would be supplemented by the Immorality Amendment Act (Immorality Act) of 1957, it also became a crime to display intent or interest in conducting a relationship with a member of a different race. Overnight, holding the hand, kissing or otherwise expressing affection for a person of a different race to you could land you in trouble. 

Such laws were particularly resented and were among the first repealed when Apartheid ended in the early 1990s.  Although no statistics exist about something that was illegal and therefore impossible to count, it is a good bet that the rules meant many people were forced to live their lives in constant fear of discovery or had to separate under circumstances of unimaginable pain.

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