An ‘important purpose of section 34 [of the Constitution] is to guarantee the protection of the judicial process to persons who have disputes that can be resolved by law’ and that the right of access to court is ‘foundational to the stability of an orderly society. It ensures the peaceful, regulated and institutionalised mechanisms to resolve disputes, without resorting to self-help. The right of access to court is a bulwark against vigilantism, and the chaos and anarchy which it causes. Construed in this context of the rule of law and the principle against self-help in particular, access to court is indeed of cardinal importance’.The right guaranteed s34 would be rendered meaningless if court orders could be ignored with impunity:the underlying purposes of the right — and particularly that of avoidance of self-help — would be undermined if litigants could decide which orders they wished to obey and which they wished to ignore.
This is what I call the productive power of the Constitution: Constitutional rights can have an effcet far beyond the mere invalidation of existing pieces of legislation. Because the law is also productive – by that I mean it helps to produce the reality we live in – constitutional challenges can have far-reaching social and political effects by changing the way people think about their world.
Of course, it can also produce powerful forces of resistance. After the discussions are over, there is always the likelihood of a backlash and more repression. But that backlash may again, in turn, lead to resistance by gay and lesbian groups now emboldened.BACK TO TOP