NEWS STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION REGARING ISSUES RELATING TO THE RIGHTS OF THE LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL TRANSGENDER AND INTERSEX COMMUNITIES
Date: Thursday, 05 May 2011
The SA Human Rights Commission returns to the Johannesburg Equality Court on Friday, 27 May 2011 for judgment regarding the court proceedings that it instituted against the former Sunday Sun columnist Mr Jon Qwelane in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act .
The proceedings relate to the derogatory and homophobic article written by Mr Qwelane in his column. Mr Qwelane did not present himself at court recently when the matter was set down for a directions hearing. Due to his absence the Commission submitted argument for default judgment to be granted against him. The Commission is asking the court to grant an order of an unconditional apology and a symbolic compensation against Mr Qwelane.
Meanwhile, the Commission welcomes government’s announcement that it will form a task team to deliberate on the issues relating to hate crimes against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities. According to the Department of Justice the team would begin its work on July 15 and will comprise representatives from the judiciary, police, government and the LGTI communities.
This follows the killing and raping of Ms Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24 year gender activist and a lesbian. It is alleged that Ms Nogwaza who was stoned to death, was a victim of corrective rape.
South Africa has a long history of prejudice and discrimination. One of the major legacies of apartheid is that of intolerance towards ‘difference’ - be it in terms of race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other such factors. As a result, seventeen years after South Africa’s first democratic elections, the country is still grappling to find ways to better manage ‘difference’.
Seventeen years after the end of apartheid, there is a need to question whether South Africa has adequately dealt with the prejudice. The reality is that in many cases, because prejudice remains insufficiently addressed and as a result of this racism, xenophobia, sexism, and homophobia, continue to undermine social cohesion in South Africa.
The Commission hopes the task team will among others deliberate on:
• The creation of an environment that will ensure that those who perceive themselves to be victims of hate crimes feel comfortable enough to report these crimes to the police and have faith that these will be followed up effectively;
• The need to assess the extent to which the existing policing structures are inclusive and representative of all relevant constituencies. Currently the Community Policing Forums (CPFs) serve as a liaison forum between the police and the community; yet, it is not clear to what extent CPFs are able to represent the concerns of all members of the community including the LGBT people;
• The need for an improvement in the way in which crimes suspected of being hate crimes are investigated and prosecuted. The current backlog in the criminal justice system means that cases suspected of involving hate crime will take a long time to finalize, thus extending the trauma of the victim;
• And the need for an improvement in the way hate crimes are recorded by the police. Unlike in other countries, South Africa’s crime statistics do not provide for a separate category for hate crimes. This means that it is hard to gauge the levels of hate crime in the country. Coupled with concerns regarding underreporting of hate crimes, this means that many incidents are likely to have gone undetected.
For years the Commission has been lobbying government to look into the possibility of enacting a Hate Crimes legislation. It even brought to government’s attention the need to take measures to address issues relating to hate crimes and hate speech as recommended by the United Nations Committee to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In August 2006 the Committee recommended that the South African government must look at instituting measures to deal with hate crimes and hate speech and also report to it. But to date nothing had been done.
The Commission is available to engage with the team as soon as it begins its work.
Further enquiries: Vincent Moaga on 073 562 9866/011 877 3636
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