Human dignity-Our supreme constitutional value
As far as constitutional interpretation and statutory interpretation in general is concerned, South Africa is undergoing a transformation from a formal, positivistic vision of law to a substantive, natural law vision of law. And the single most significant factor in this transformation is the existence of constitutional values. For the first time in South Africa, courts (in particular the Constitutional Court) must decide cases on the basis of these values. It is therefore simply erroneous and naive to say that 'the Constitutional Court has been so fixated with the role of 'values' in the first year of its existence' and that the court is 'obsessed' with the role of 'values'. Of these values, the three most fundamental in any open and democratic society are human dignity, equality and freedom. Amongst this trinity of values human dignity finds pride of place. Some of the pertinent questions briefly addressed in this article are: (1) What does human dignity entail?; (2) Is human dignity a right or a duty?; (3) How should it be understood in a plural society such as ours?; (4) What about the impact of modern technology on human dignity?; (5) Is our understanding of the concept/value/idea of human dignity not too European/Western in nature? For example, the issue of gays and lesbians is a human rights and human dignity question in the West, while other cultures find homosexuality abhorrent and uncivilized; and (6) Should we explore a religious and spiritual philosophy of human dignity?