n South African Journal on Human Rights - Dignatio and the human body

Volume 21, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0258-7203



Dignity is a homonym, signifying both private law conceptions of valuable reputation, and the innate humanness that informs universal human rights. Natural law tradition distinguishes between these two substantially different ideas by referring to the former as &lt;I&gt;dignitas&lt;/I&gt; and the latter as <I>dignatio</I>. As implicitly confirmed by certain landmark decisions, notably <I>Makwanyane</I>, the dignity guaranteed by the Constitution is dignatio. However, in <I>Jordan</I>, the Court appears to have relied on dignitas to give meaning to inherent human dignity. In this article, I argue why constitutional dignity is dignatio and outline certain consequences that arise from this. Furthermore, I argue that dignatio is principally realised when respect is shown to the human body. Such respect includes: fostering autonomy in relation to the body; rejecting a market imaginary for investigating humanness; and ensuring that the exclusion of those never yet fully included in society does not continue.

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