Although racial segregation existed much earlier, the formal policy known as apartheid began in South Africa in 1948 when the Afrikaner Nationalist Party came into power. The word "apartheid" comes from a word in the Afrikaans language meaning "apartness" or "separateness." The policy called for a systematic separation of racial groups throughout the country. The difference between apartheid and previous policies of discrimination was that apartheid made discrimination part of the official rule of law.
Under apartheid, the entire population had to be registered as members of the particular racial groups of white, black, colored, Indian, or Asian. The various racial groups had to live in different locations, especially in urban areas, and those who did not move voluntarily were forced to move. Over 80 percent of the land was set aside for whites, and non-whites had to carry documents that authorized them to move around in white areas. Rural blacks were forcibly removed from their land, which was then sold cheaply to white people. By 1950, it was against the law for whites to marry non-whites and for whites to have sexual relations with black people. Only whites could participate in national government, and non-whites had to use separate public facilities from whites.
The policy of apartheid met with protests and, in some cases, violent resistance. It also was condemned internationally. In 1976, the UN Security Council forbade sales of arms to South Africa, and in 1985, the United States and the United Kingdom imposed economic sanctions on the country. It was not until 1994, however, that a new national constitution was approved and apartheid officially came to an end.