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Discrimination & Stigma

  1. What is discrimination?
  2. What is stigma?
  3. What can be done about discrimination and stigma?
  4. Resources

Discrimination is when a person, or a group of people, is treated unkindly and unfairly by another person, or group of people.

This is usually because that person seems to be different in some way. They can be a different race, or religion, nationality, colour, size, age, or they can have an illness or disability.  Discrimination can be based on just about anything – it is treating someone badly because of WHO THEY ARE, for something they cannot change.

Discrimination can happen at school, at work or in public:

  • being bullied or abused because of who you are
  • not being chosen for a sports team, a job, or being excluded from opportunities because of who you are
  • being treated unfairly because of who you are

But no matter what:

  • discrimination is unfair
  • discrimination is unkind
  • discrimination is wrong
  • discrimination hurts people

REMEMBER: Nobody is born unkind.  This unkindness is something that people learn at home, in their communities and at school, but it can be unlearnt.

Discrimination also leads to stigma.

Stigma is when someone feels devalued (they feel they are less important that others) because others disapprove of, or won’t accept something about them, or treat them badly because of that part of them.

People who are stigmatised:

  • feel afraid, isolated and alone, hurt, ashamed, depressed and sad
  • lose hope, self-worth and self-esteem
  • find it difficult to ask for help
  • sometimes don’t take their medication (if they are ill)
  • sometimes feel that life is no longer worth living

The world would be a very boring place if everyone looked the same, spoke the same and did the same things. Having different people around is so interesting!

  • I’m interesting, you’re interesting! Get to know different people
    Some people find new or different things scary. You don’t have to be like that – the more we come to understand or hear positive things about our differences, such as culture or religion, the better we might feel about them.  We also realise how much we have in common!
    You could ask people questions about themselves (e.g. their religion or culture) and share more about yourself. This could be a way of learning about each other and about the things that make us who we are. Celebrating our differences can sometimes help us meet new people, make friends and stop bullying, and other forms of discrimination from happening.
  • Stand up for those who are being discriminated against
    If you hear others talking about a person or group of people in a mean (discriminatory) way, tell them that it’s not okay to discriminate because we are all human beings and have the right to be treated equally.
    If you see someone being bullied because of who they are, let them know that you are there to be a friend, and that you will help them. Speak to an adult you trust, who can do something about it, or call Childline 116
  • Stand up for yourself if you are being discriminated against
    If you are being bullied of treated unfairly because of who you are, make sure you ask for help. If talking to those who are treating you unkindly does not work, speak to an adult you trust and who can do something about it, or call Childline 116


No matter who you are, The Constitution of South Africa protects your rights – your needs and interests.

Section 9 of The Constitution of South Africa states that any form of unfair discrimination is against the law, which means that we are all protected by the law.

Know your rights and responsibilities:

Download a copy of The Constitution of South Africa here:

You can also find a great summary of The Constitution of South Africa here:

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