PRESS STATEMENT | LHR stands with LGBTIQ+ communities

Date: 15/06/2021

As we mark the half-way point in Global Pride Month, LHR calls for an end to the prejudice and discrimination faced by too many in post-Apartheid constitutional South Africa, based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.

This month – and every month – we stand in solidarity with our LGBTIQ+ colleagues, clients, and partner organisations, whose rights we are committed to protecting and promoting, and whose voices we want to amplify.

LHR’s own legal representation and activism have centered on some of these communities’ most vulnerable.  In 2018, the Western Cape High Court handed down judgement in September v Subramoney N.O. and Others. Ms September, a transgender woman incarcerated in a men’s prison and represented by LHR, challenged the constitutionality of denying trans inmates the right to express their identity freely in prison. The court declared that the constitutional rights to equality, dignity, and freedom of expression include the right to freely express one’s gender identity and – critically – that incarceration does not excuse the State from reasonably accommodating and fulfilling the obligation to respect, protect, promote, and fulfill the rights of transgender persons, like Ms September.

But court cases alone are not enough, especially when the State fails to properly implement court orders that should protect LGBTIQ+ people. Our leaders must both publicly condemn and act to end violent attacks on the LGBTIQ+ communities across the country, many of which have resulted in death.

South Africa has been waiting for hate crime legislation for over a decade. As a member of the Hate Crimes Working Group (HCWG), LHR is aware that one reason put forward for the State’s delay in finalising the Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill (the Bill) is the fact that the hate speech case of Jonathan Dubula Qwelane v South African Human Rights Commission and Another has not yet received final judgment at the Constitutional Court. Considering the violent attacks and deaths that LGBTIQ+ Africans continue to endure in our country, this response from the State is no longer reasonable, or enough. The Bill is gathering dust in Parliament while death becomes queer.

That is why LHR supports the HCWG call on Parliament to urgently proceed with the parts of the Prevention and Combatting of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill that deal with hate crimes, with a clause indicating that the hate speech provisions are delayed and will come into operation a future date – after the Qwelane judgment is received and considered. This has been done in respect of other pieces of legislation, and there is no reason why the same could not happen with this Bill that is urgently needed.

“Pride is an important moment for us to recall the struggles and victories of the LGBTIQ+ community around the world. It is also a moment for us to look inward in South Africa, and to query whether we are doing enough to ensure that the promises of our Constitution are accessible to all of us, including LGBTIQ+ members of our society,” said Thato Gaffane, paralegal at LHR. “We live a world where there are so many things that separate us, including sexual identity and sexual orientation, and it is important that these are recognized as elements of diversity to be celebrated and not traits of division. To ensure effective exercise and enjoyment of human rights by all, there is much more to be done.”

LHR is grateful for the support of its ongoing work in the LGBTIQ+ sector from the Other Foundation, the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, the Open Society Foundation for Southern Africa, the Raith Foundation, and the Constitutionalism Fund.

For more information:

Ms Michael Clements

Director of Programmes


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