Apartheid vs Genocide: Difference and Comparison

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: Apartheid refers to institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination that was practiced in South Africa. Genocide is the deliberate mass killing of a particular group of people based on ethnicity, nationality, religion, or race.
  2. Victims: Under apartheid, black South Africans were oppressed and denied rights. Genocides target specific ethnic/religious groups for extermination.
  3. Intentions: Apartheid aimed to enforce white minority rule and dominance. Genocide seeks to completely eradicate a people or community.

What is Apartheid?

Apartheid was a system of racial discrimination as well as segregation. It was carried out in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. The term “apartheid” means “apartness” or “separateness.” The word belongs to Afrikaans. The National Party government implemented it.

The purpose of this system was to maintain the racial dominance of the white minority over the non-white majority. The South African government classified and separated the races based on this system. The basis of the separation was skin color, and white people held all the control.

Non-white people faced innumerable discriminatory laws and practices. Their rights were abolished along with their freedom. However, every oppressed individual strikes back, and thus the anti-apartheid movement saw its course too. These movements challenged the apartheid system. In 1994 apartheid was officially abolished.

After the scrapping of apartheid, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed. This commission addressed the human rights abuses that took place in this era. This system impacted South Africa vastly. It caused economic inequalities and historical trauma.

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What is Genocide?

Raphael Lemkin coined the term genocide. In Greek, “genos” means tribe or race, and in Latin, “cide” means killing. Genocide is the consciously attempted extermination of a particular racial, ethnic, religious, or national group. Undoubtedly this is one of the most horrifying crimes against humanity.

The aim of genocide is the destruction of a group of people. Genocide is executed by mass killings, physical and sexual torture, forced assimilation, and several other abuses. The whole system gets planned and employed accordingly. 

This heinous crime is considered a crime under international law. In 1948 it was declared that the state needed to prevent genocide. Genocide causes enormous loss of life. It is a destroyer of not only people but their culture as well. The trauma of the survivors is profound and long-lasting.

The widely known genocide is the Holocaust. During World War II, Nazi Germany executed genocide and killed around six million Jews. A mother example of genocide is the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Here around 800,000 ethnic Tutsis were killed by Hutu extremists.

Difference Between Apartheid and Genocide

  1. Apartheid was a system of racial discrimination implemented in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. But genocide is the intentional extermination of a specific racial, religious, or ethnic group.
  2. Apartheid is not acknowledged as a crime under international law and is criticized by the international community. But genocide is considered as a crime under international law.
  3. Apartheid is a process to maintain white superiority and dominance persistent over non-white people.
  4. Apartheid does not include killing, and it is just discrimination. On the other hand, genocide includes killing, violence, and abuse.
  5. Apartheid is discrimination against non-white people, and genocide is violence against any specific ethnic group or race.
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Comparison Between Apartheid and Genocide

Parameter of ComparisonApartheidGenocide
Definition It is a system of racial segregation and discrimination.It is the intentional and systematic extermination of a group.
PurposeIt wants to establish and maintain racial dominance.It wants physical destruction and extermination of a targeted group.
MethodsApartheid is done by forcefully separating people through institutionalized racism.Genocide is done with mass killings, torture, and several other types of abuses.
Agenda Here the agenda is to oppress and control. Here the agenda is the destruction and elimination of the group.
TargetThe common target of apartheid is the non-white people of South Africa.The common target of genocide is a specific ethnic or racial group.
  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Nf6BAwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=+Apartheid&ots=SzIy8yOG8b&sig=WM6xNydYkwEyGQMu5IvaUxgpILE
  2. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9781315126302-49/politics-genocide-leo-kuper

Last Updated : 11 September, 2023

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