LGBTI community want more from leaders

Date: January 1, 1970
  • SHARE:

The gay community came face to face with the ruling party, African National Congress (ANC) and opposition, Democratic Alliance (DA), questioning the parties’ policies regarding LGBTI issues, prior to the 22 April South African presidential elections.

Held at Constitution Hill, the Elections Seminar was called by the Joint Working Group (JWG) as part of its mission to advance and promote the rights of LGBTI people through constructive dialogue and collaborations.
Major political parties in the country were invited to engage with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community on issues such as hate crimes, hate speech and threats to constitutional protections, amongst other things.
Only the ANC and DA showed up for this meeting which saw ANC representatives defending Jacob Zuma’s alleged anti-gay speech at the church, Rhema, also giving a background of how the Civil Union Act came about.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, and Regional Spokesperson Lindiwe Zulu represented the ANC while DA was represented by Johannesburg Councillor Ian Ollis. The ANC admitted to having not done much on LGBTI issues since the passing of the Civil Union Act in 2006, citing that these issues are still taboo within the party.
The ruling party, through Madlala-Routlege urged the gay community to suggest how it should tackle gay issues in the future.
It said however that passing the Act was an important development which many people in the ANC worked very hard to bring about. This was in response to a statement by DA’s Ollis that the Act seemed to be accidental and imposed on ANC members and society at large before the country was ready.
“DA allowed our members to vote out of conscience and more than 80% voted in favour of the Act, unlike with the ANC where every member was forced to vote in favour. This might be the reason why we still have issues such as hate crimes and hate speech in the country because people were not ready.”
Ollis said DA has distributed a list of its gay members and that he also came out as gay with a view to give a face to gay people with high positions within political parties. He however admitted that it has been very difficult for him to come out as gay in the DA since some members were uncomfortable with the coming out of the gay constituency within the party.
Questioned about their silence when LGBTI people are murdered based on their sexual orientation and absence in marches condemning hate crimes Madlala-Routledge said, she has been vocal in support of the LGBTI struggle in South Africa.
“You can see my speeches on the internet, but yes, I agree we need to speak out and condemn such crimes as people in the positions that we are in.”
Madlala-Routledge also raised, amongst other things, that the ruling party represents society and that some members of society still hold backward views regarding homosexuality. She added that belief systems can be changed. “Black people were considered subhuman at some point in South Africa and through years of struggle that was changed, even with gay rights we can reverse what has been socialised.”
Meanwhile, Ollis said he sees a greater possibility of DA advancing gay rights given the gay constituency within the party. He also highlighted that as a parliamentary candidate he will speak on gay issues. “My appointment will ensure that there is someone who will speak on these issues,” Ollis pledged.
Concluding, Madlala-Routlege stated that the ANC is very firm on its policies “but there are people amongst us [the ANC] who still have to confront their prejudices, particularly those in high positions of leadership.”  She added “As a black woman, I understand issues of intolerance and I believe that the struggle goes beyond gender and race. And we have to question those sensitive areas,” she advised.
JWG Coordinator, Emily Craven reiterated that the LGBTI community should play an active role in the processes before the election date.  “Its easy to just back away from the political process and say what is the point in voting, but voting is more than just picking a party, it’s about engaging with democracy and as a community we can’t afford to just stop engaging with the process of democracy. Remember to come out and vote,” Craven said.
Mongezi Mhlongo and Nomancotsho Pakade report for Behind the Mask, a media organisation that strives to change negative attitudes towards homosexuality in Africa, through journalistic activism. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

Comment on LGBTI community want more from leaders

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *