See this link for special report on AIDS: Global Health Watch
Interview (in India) with Justice Edwin Cameron of the Constitutional Court of South Africa
Edwin Cameron has just been named to join the Constitutional Court in South Africa. He will be the first openly gay and openly HIV+ judge to be named to the Court – and to a supreme court anywhere since Michael Kirby, whose retirement from the Australian High Court also recently made the news, was not out when he joined the court. We in India owe a big debt to Kirby and Cameron who did a series of very important programmes with Indian lawyers and judges some years back, organised by Lawyer’s Collective, where they came here and spoke very openly and frankly on issues of human rights, HIV, sexuality and other issues.
The interview was done about 5 years ago and some things have changed since then – like Thabo Mbeki happily no longer in the SA Presidency spreading his bizarre and destructive theories on HIV. At that time Cameron had just finished a temporary stint on the Constitutional Court, but thanks to Mbeki’s views on HIV, he was not confirmed there and went back to lower Court of Appeal. Now with Mbeki gone Cameron has been confirmed on the Constitutional Court, which is excellent news even for us in India, for it ensures that there is a very well respected legal authority out there, who knows India, and who can be guaranteed to carry on Kirby’s advocacy of human rights for all.
Interview with Justice Edwin Cameron:
Vikram: Is this the first time you’re coming to India?
Cameron: No, I was here about a year ago to conduct a similar programme. That was just for judges, of the High Courts, District Courts and Sessions Courts. Michael of course is much more familiar with India. He’s spent quite a long time driving through the country in the past.
Vikram: What’s the level of awareness you’ve found among the legal community in India regarding AIDS issues?
Cameron: Not very high. There are of course a few people who are involved and aware of the issues. But there’s a noticeably lower level of information among non-specialists in the legal community.
Vikram: So what have you done on this current trip?
Cameron: We have been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment! We have been slave driven by Mandeep and Anand! We’ve spent five days in four different cities and addressed seven public meetings. In all these meetings we’ve been talking about the urgency of the AIDS problem and how the legal community needs to become aware of it. And we have been emphasising the importance of a non-discriminatory response to the issue since discrimination will just drive the problem underground and make it harder to deal with.
Vikram: What sort of response have you got?
Cameron: Very positive. People have really responded very well at the meetings.
Mandeep: The Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court even suggested that they return for a national level workshop for judges from across the country. I think that’s tremendous progress.
Vikram: How did you get involved with this programme?
Cameron: Mandeep and Anand had heard me speak in Greece on this subject, and they approached me there and asked me if I’d be interested in speaking with Michael on this subject in India. And of course I said yes. I was really keen on doing this because I can see so many parallels between the situation in India and South Africa. As I said in my speech we have the historical links with Mahatma Gandhi and both countries have been though similar freedom struggles They are both large third world countries facing issues of poverty and equality. Both are tremendously vulnerable to the threat of AIDS. And in both countries there is a commitment to justice under law through a constitution. There are differences of course. For one, our democracy is a much younget one. And in South Africa at the moment we are facing a crime wave which is threatening the existing legal system. But there are many parallels between the two countries.
Vikram: In your speech you mentioned your regret that one thing President Mandela did not do was take leadership of the AIDS issue. Why do you think that happened?
Cameron: Its true. I’ve gone on record saying this. President Mandela did not show the sort of commitment to the AIDS that I wish he had. I do not for a moment underestimate what he did for the country. President Mandela saved our country. Partly he did this by developing a huge rapport with the young people of the country. And that is the tragedy – he could have used that rapport to do so much on the AIDS issue. I suppose he just felt it was not important enough or he didn’t have the time for it. He’s an old man, a proud and stubborn man, and I guess he just couldn’t adapt to this issue. When he hadhis birthday he had Michael Jackson and the Spice Girls come down to South Africa and the fact is that he spent more time with them than he has ever spent on the AIDS issue. Its a tragedy.
Mandeep: Whereas one good thing in India is that the person who is most committed to dealing with the AIDS issue is Prime Minister Vajpayee.
Vikram: Could you give us a chronology of how the AIDS crisis developed in South Africa?
Cameron: AIDS was first reported in 1982-83 among gay white men. Two years later it was reported among mine workers from Malawi. They were forcibly tested and 4-5% were found positive and were deported. This was a big injustice, and futile as well since it did not slow down the spread of the disease. Its a good example of how quarantining doesn’t work. Despite deporting people like the Malawian mine workers the disease has spread rapidly and the rates are now.
Vikram: How did you get involved in the AIDS issue?
Cameron: I got involved because in 1985 I was a labour rights lawyer working with the largest mine working union. I had got involved with human rights issues while working at the University of Witwatersrand, with which I’m still associated. I got involved in labour issues, trade unions, the National Union of Mineworkers and through that with the AIDS issue and with AIDS NGOs. When the apartheid regime was overthrown I was appointed a judge in 1994-95.
Vikram: Could you tell me something about growth of the gay movement in South Africa? Its not the sort of country where one would assume there was an open gay movement. Yet I’ve recently been reading Mary Renault’s biography, and I was fascinated to read in it about this thriving gay community that existed in the Cape region with which she was associated with. Of course, it was a white gay community.
Cameron: Yes, a strong gay community did exist. And it got its real boost after a private party in 1967 which raided by the police. That lead to the enactment of very anti-gay legislation. It was a totally absurd clause which prohibited the assembling of men at a party, a party being defined as any gathering at which two of more men were present! It was completely unjust and much more severe than just an anti-sodomy law since homosexuality itself was explicitly made criminal. This lead to the formation of the Gay Equality Movement. The next significant step was the emergence of Simon Nkoli, who died last year of AIDS. Simon emerged in the early Eighties and he brought up the gay issue in the black community. At the same time he challenged the mostly white and middle class Gay Equality Movement, and tried involving the gay movement with the anti-apartheid struggle. Which was wasn’t easy, since the Gay Equality Movement was initially quite resistant to black issues. I hooked up with Simon at that time. I had always been outspoken about my sexuality. I was always emphatically open about being gay. Simon and I became good friends. We worked together, trying to talk to both sides of the community, and things did start to change.
Vikram: That’s really interesting, since its another parallel to the situation in India. On the one hand you have the upper class and now an emerging middle class gay community which is self consciously Westernised and has by and large adopted a gay identity. And then there are also emerging gay communities in lower income, vernacular language groups. They often are uncomfortable with the gay identity since they see that as Western and alien. And there are a lot of tensions between the two communities, which is a pity since both seem to be important.
Cameron: Yes, both communities are important. The grass roots movements are vital since without them there will be no real change. Yet you can’t dismiss the middle class communities, since its with them that the movement is usually started and develops. They are very valuable people and their contribution should not be underestimated.
Vikram: How did this the apartheid movement react to the gay movement? And how did this interaction result in the amazing achievement of the rights of sexual minorities being included for the first time in the world in the new constitution?
Cameron: What happened was that in 1987 an executive on the African National Congress’ governing council made some very anti-gay remarks. And that created a furore in the West, where the groups who strongly supported the anti-apartheid movement were generally also strongly committed to gay rights. They lobbied the ANC and as a result Thabo Mbeki, who is now the President, publicly repudiated the anti-gay remarks that had been made. That brought the issue of sexual minorities up and the ANC’s commitment to equality proved to be so strong, that the rights of sexual minorities were naturally included. I also think that blacks had suffered so much oppression, and in particular, from sexually oppressive laws like those on miscegenation that they naturally understood the importance of ensuring the rights of sexual minorities. So when it came to framing the constitution, these rights were automatically included.
Vikram: Was there any reaction to your being openly gay when you became a judge?
Cameron: In the first interview I did after becoming a judge we talked about my being openly gay. After that its never come up. I’m not even the only openly gay judge now. I think there are four of us now who are openly gay or lesbian.
Vikram: Wasn’t there any reaction from the churches?
Cameron: The churches have been supportive of us.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu in particular has been incredibly open and supportive. And the Dutch Reformed Church may not have been too happy about it, but they were also supportive.
Vikram: So where does the gay movement now stand in South Africa?
Cameron: I can’t really speak for the gay activists in South Africa, because after becoming a judge I necessarily had to distance myself from them to some extent. But speaking about the gay scene in general there has of course been this amazing explosion of gay life with a lot of openness and people coming out. On a more organised level though its now getting into tricky areas like gay marriage and spousal rights. Its the same thing that’s happened in the West. There are two issues. The first is the legality issue, abolishing the laws against sodomy and that is really the easy one because the argument for privacy between consenting adults is so obvious. And really, anti-sodomy laws like Article 377 in India are colonial legacies, imposed by the British on a culture which like in Africa probably never really penalised homosexuality. So getting rid of that is the easy one. Its the second issue of spousal rights which is much harder since then you are talking about issues affecting institutions like the family, and it gets more complicated and you run into more resistance.
Vikram: How does the AIDS link with the gay movement in South Africa?
Its a particularly urgent question over here. Unlike in the West AIDS has not automatically become a gay issue. Its seen as a threat to society as a whole. And in a way, perhaps this is a good thing, because we aren’t being additionally victimised on this score. Yet at the same time we can’t ignore it, because the threat is real. You could even argue that we have benefited from it because the government has given de facto acknowledgment to the gay movement under the head of AIDS awareness. Organisations like Humsafar have got funds and support under the AIDS awareness head. And not because there’s been any radical shift in the government’s feelings towards the gay movement, but simply because the gay movement’s involvement with AIDS issues internationally has forced them to acknowledge it here – or they wouldn’t get funds. So – finally – coming back to my question, how has South Africa dealt with the linkage between the issues?
Cameron: Its certainly a very difficult area. I can appreciate that for reasons of tactics and strategy one doesn’t want to explicitly link the gay movement with the AIDS issue. You don’t want to deal with too many issues and confuse things or maybe even antagonise the situation. So I understand the feeling that the two issues shouldn’t be linked and in South Africa its like India, the two issues have not been really linked. AIDS is seen as a threat to society as a whole. Yet in the process the real threat of AIDS to the gay community has been downplayed, and I think that has been very wrong. I feel guilty about it, since I played a part in drafting the initial legislation on these issues, and I feel that we could perhaps have done more to raise the importance of AIDS issues. We didn’t, for much the same tactical reasons you talk about, but I increasingly feel that as a consequence the threat of AIDS to the gay community has been downplayed. And that should never happen. It is just too much of a risk.
Vikram: Yet I notice that today when Justice Kirby and you spoke you didn’t raise the gay issue at all…
Cameron: Yes, that’s true. When Michael and I spoke to the Bombay Bar Association today we both discussed whether to bring up the fact that we were gay. We have done so in all workshops. We were open about being gay, just as I was today about being HIV positive. And it didn’t seem to be too much of a problem. But today it wasn’t a workshop. It was a talk to a Bar Association which had asked us to speak on a particular topic, so perhaps we shouldn’t throw too much at this audience. You need to suit things to the occasion. You see, I really do understand the arguments over tactics and strategy. But as a result of it, the gay community simply cannot afford to risk reducing its focus on the threat of AIDS. The simple fact is that it is too much of a threat. The simple facts of how anal sex happens and how it increases the risk of transmission through it are just too much. Yes, I’m speaking as a gay man, who is HIV positive, and I have to say this. The gay community simply has to keep communicating the threat that AIDS poses to us. You can’t play with people’s lives.
Vikram: But isn’t it also true that encouraging the growth of an out gay community will eventually encourage safe sex?
Cameron: That’s true. The people most at risk are definitely self- denying gay men who have unprotected sex in one night stands and other risky encounters. And encouraging open, long term gay relationships is a very important tactic in preventing this from happening. But the threat of AIDS is too much, and the realities of having it are so bad, that we can’t shift our focus from the safe sex message. Two years back I was really sick because of AIDS, before I came on my current drug regime, and I can tell you that it is truly horrible. The facts of being sick with AIDS, of dying because of AIDS, are just to awful. Its because of that that I’m speaking out. And because I think in South Africa we have ignored the real threat of the AIDS issue to our society. The death of Gugu Dlamini – a young African woman who tested was HIV positive last year and who because of that who was stoned to death by her own community – convinced me about this. That’s what forces me to stand in front of a group like the Bar Association today and talk about AIDS and about being HIV positive.
Vikram: You just mentioned your new drug regime, and you talked about it in your speech. You spoke about the cost of it, how the international drug pricing policies pharmaceutical companies have kept these high. And of how this leads to the unjustness of you as a well paid judge being able to afford it, but there are so many millions who can’t. You said you didn’t want to talk about it then, but this is obviously an issue you feel strongly about.
Cameron: Very strongly. The pricing policies followed by the international pharmaceutical companies for AIDS related drugs is completely unfair. They talk about their research and development costs, but the fact is that these do not apply to these drugs. These are not expensive drugs to make. They can be made cheaply available to the millions who need them. But the pharmaceutical companies are not doing so, and the international community is not forcing them to do so. I feel very strongly that these pricing policies have to be a focus for AIDS activism.
Vikram: My last question. Do you think you and Justice Kirby are likely to come again? Because I think you make a great team. Justice Kirby may not have spoken on AIDS or gay issues today, I think his speech on legal issues actually helped because it interested the legal community and established the credentials of both of you. And after that what you said on HIV issues and about how you were positive, had all that more impact!
Mandeep: Perhaps I should say that what happened was that when we spoke about doing this talk with the Bombay Bar Association, they said we shouldn’t say we were going to talk about HIV issues, because, they said, `no one would be interested’. So instead they asked them to speak on Legal issues in the new millennium! I guess that shows their attitude, but what was good to see was that so many people came and seemed to be interested in the AIDS issues.
Vikram: I noticed that Justice Srikrishna was the one who argued that given the low level of awareness about AIDS issues and safe sex in India, and given the urgency of the issue, the government perhaps needed to take a more active role. And that perhaps one couldn’t afford the luxury of non-discrimination against AIDS victims. Since he’s known to be one of the more liberal judges that must have been a bit disappointing.
Mandeep: Yes, that was certainly disappointing. But Justice Srikrishna wasn’t part of the workshops we had the last time, and I think his remarks just underline the importance of having these workshops for judges.
Cameron: It certainly does and I certainly do intend to be back with Michael for more workshops. Doing these workshops over the last few days and the response we’ve got – its been an amazing experience.
You’ll definitely see us back here in a years’ time.
January 19, 2009 – PinkNews
South African gay couple plan legal action after wedding refusal
by Felicity Baker
A gay couple in South Africa were allegedly told they could not get married because their relationship was "not normal," it has been reported. Alexander Bruce, 25, and Jaco van der Walt, 19, had decided to marry after being together for a year and had gone to the Home Affairs office for an initial appointment on December 17th. However, they claim that when they arrived at the Germiston Home Affairs office on January 2nd they were laughed at by an official who then refused to marry them. After speaking to a more senior member of staff, the official returned to the couple and said that the Germiston Home Affairs office could not accommodate same-sex marriages.
“I spoke to the supervisor myself and he told me that I should go to the Alberton Home Affairs office,” Bruce told The Citizen newspaper. “The supervisor did not treat us with respect at all; he was quite rude to us.” Bruce later phoned the Alberton Home Affairs office, and was told that Germiston Home Affairs office is in fact permitted to perform same-sex marriages.
“I was so excited about getting married and was really disappointed when we couldn’t go through with it,” Van der Walt told the newspaper. Home Affairs claimed the marriage did not take place because there was no record of the couple’s appointment on December 17th. The two men now plan to marry at the Alberton Home Affairs office and hope to take legal action. South Africa is the only country in Africa that has legalised same-sex marriage.
January 24, 2009 – The New York Times
In South Africa, a Justice Delayed Is No Longer Denied
by Celia W. Dugger
Johannesburg – Edwin Cameron, appointed a High Court judge by Nelson Mandela soon after apartheid ended in 1994, pulled to the side of the road, leaned his head on the steering wheel and was overcome by deep, shattering sobs, he recently recalled. It was 1999 and he had just decided to publicly disclose he was H.I.V.-positive at the very moment he sought to fulfill his life’s ambition: to serve on South Africa’s highest tribunal, the Constitutional Court.
“I am not dying of AIDS,” he told the stunned judicial commission that was deciding whether to recommend his elevation. “I am living with AIDS.” On that day a decade ago, he became the first — and still remains the only — senior office holder anywhere in southern Africa, and perhaps in all of Africa, to announce he was infected with H.I.V.
Mr. Cameron, hale and hearty at age 55, finally ascended to the Constitutional Court this month. In the years that have yawned between his original act of revelation and his current triumph lies the story of a gay, white South African wrestling with the divisive politics of AIDS here at the heart of the world’s pandemic. Not long after he divulged that he was H.I.V.-positive, Mr. Cameron made another fateful decision, one that was extremely rare among public officials here: he openly challenged President Thabo Mbeki — who held the power to decide whether to name him to the Constitutional Court — on his ideas about AIDS.
Mr. Mbeki had begun questioning the scientific consensus that AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease caused by H.I.V., suggesting that those who held such views were motivated by racist ideas about sexually promiscuous black men. Mr. Mbeki’s government also delayed giving antiretroviral drugs to treat and prevent the disease for years — a decision that led to 365,000 premature deaths, Harvard researchers recently concluded. So why did Mr. Cameron, who believes judges should generally stay out of the political fracases of the day, take on Mr. Mbeki, most likely delaying his promotion to the Constitutional Court for years, if not scuttling it entirely?
“I suppose it was a sense of dismayed outrage that this man with so much intellectual promise, who held out such high ideals for the African continent, should betray it so profoundly on its major moral question,” Mr. Cameron said in a recent interview. Mr. Cameron, the first judge named to the Constitutional Court since Mr. Mbeki was deposed as president by his own party four months ago, seems an unlikely rebel. A Rhodes scholar described by some colleagues as his generation’s finest legal intellectual in South Africa, he is a courtly, judicious man who serves tea with impeccable gentility.
One of his closest friends, Zackie Achmat, an advocate for AIDS patients, described him affectionately as “a tetchy old spinster.” Mr. Achmat recalled that the day he started working for Mr. Cameron as a paralegal at the AIDS Law Project, which Mr. Cameron founded in the early 1990s, Mr. Cameron looked him over — Mr. Achmat was wearing jeans and a T-shirt — and acerbically asked when he was starting the job.
“You don’t come to work dressed like that,” Mr. Cameron told him severely. “This is a legal firm. Wear a tie and jacket,” then later laughed when Mr. Achmat turned up in a tie emblazoned with condoms. Mr. Cameron’s sense of right and wrong has its roots in a difficult childhood. His father, an electrician of Scottish descent, was what Mr. Cameron called “a catastrophic alcoholic.” His mother, an Afrikaner, was unable to cope. At age 7, he was sent away to a home for orphans and destitute children until he was 11.
HIS mother was not the most competent parent, he said, but he credited her with one transformative gift. She set her mind to getting him into one of the nation’s elite public schools. She moved to Pretoria, got a job as a receptionist at a seedy hotel and helped him win admission to the whites-only Pretoria Boy’s High School. “In my second year there, one of the school masters said to me, ‘You’ve got to apply for a Rhodes scholarship,’ ” Mr. Cameron said. “The idea of Oxford was embedded in my mind at age 15.”
At Stellenbosch University, where he studied in his native Afrikaans, Mr. Cameron said he had remained “a quiescent white conformist.” But in 1977, the year after he arrived at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, Steve Biko, the black student activist and thinker, was murdered by the South African police. Mr. Cameron read Mr. Biko’s writings, which were banned in South Africa, and got involved in the antiapartheid movement. Upon his return to South Africa in 1982 after earning a law degree at Oxford, he joined the fight against apartheid, representing township youths arrested for throwing stones at the police and white students who refused to serve in the military on political grounds.
And when Mr. Mandela became president of a democratic South Africa in 1994, Mr. Cameron was one of the first people he named to the High Court. After disclosing he was H.I.V.-positive and taking on President Mbeki, Mr. Cameron was promoted to the appellate court, but never sought again to win appointment to the Constitutional Court until last year, assuming until then that his clash with Mr. Mbeki over AIDS would ruin his chances — an assumption fellow judges and lawyers say was almost certainly accurate. This year, a lawyer, Vuyani Ngalwana, argued in a 20-page brief to the judicial service commission that Mr. Cameron did not yet have “the pith and substance” to be on the nation’s highest court, and raised the question of whether a white man should replace a departing black judge, without giving a definitive answer.
“Justice Cameron will have another opportunity to throw his name in the hat for consideration,” Mr. Ngalwana wrote. “It is hoped that by then he will have demonstrated the requisite standard for elevation.” Mr. Ngalwana’s critique did not have much impact — the commission recommended Mr. Cameron’s promotion — but Mr. Cameron’s reaction to it was telling. For a man whose friends describe as possessing an exquisite sensitivity to others, he can also be a sharp-tongued advocate capable of demolishing a critic’s argument, even as he defends that critic’s right to speak out.
“I think the first 15 pages really are a coded way of raising the racial issue while denying it,” Mr. Cameron said in an interview in his new Constitutional Court office. “It’s conceptually incoherent. And what he’s really saying is that ‘there are two white vacancies available next year. Why don’t you wait till then?’ ” Mr. Cameron makes no secret of his delight in finally having reached the Constitutional Court, but he may ultimately be most remembered for speaking with intimate candor about his personal experiences with H.I.V. — the fear and sense of contamination in a society where AIDS bears a crushing stigma — in interviews and in his memoir, “Witness to AIDS” (Tafelberg Publishers, 2005).
In it, he writes about how the antiretroviral drugs he began taking in 1997 chased away the physical symptoms of sickness and the specter of death — a reality he described as “fetid, frightening, intrusive.” Much of the burden of AIDS then fell away for him, he said, as he realized it was, after all, caused by “just a virus.” And so in the years that followed, when the government denied his countrymen and women the medicines that had saved him, he decided to act. “Here I was, blessed with renewed vigor and life and health and energy and joy,” he said. “I mean, it’s an extraordinary experience. I think some cancer survivors also experience it. Here I had my life given back to me. How could I keep quiet?”
March 02, 2009 – hivplusmag.com
South African Treatment Program Targets Gay Men
Soweto, South Africa’s Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital has launched an HIV program for men who have not yet received services through the national HIV treatment rollout, in particular men who have sex with men. The new program, called Health4Men, operates a clinic in Cape Town, and another is being established at Woodstock Hospital in partnership with the Western Cape health department. Services will include free HIV testing, CD4-cell count tests, sexually transmitted disease treatment, and psychosocial support.
Many men who have sex with men also have sex with women and do not self-identify as gay, which is why the program will specifically target men who have sex with men rather than the gay community, said James McIntyre, executive director of the hospital’s Perinatal HIV Research Unit, which created Health4Men. Kevin Rebe will lead the new program.
“Men, and in particular men who have sex with men, have been neglected in most of the South African programs in the past that have focused on the dominant heterosexual and female HIV epidemic,” McIntyre told Business Day. “The Perinatal HIV Research Unit has been working in this field since 2003, and results from a recent survey conducted in Soweto in collaboration with the University of San Francisco found that about 21% of men who have sex with men were HIV-positive. About 44% said they had also had sex with women, and 41% reported unprotected anal intercourse among their last five partners.”
March 13, 2009 – PinkNews
Rise of ‘corrective rapes’ on lesbians in South Africa
by Jessica Geen
A new report has suggested a rise in ‘corrective rapes’ on lesbians in South Africa. According to charity ActionAid, women in Johannesburg and Cape Town are suffering an increase in homophobic attacks and sexual assaults which are seen as a form of punishment or "cure". One lesbian and gay support group says it is dealing with 10 new cases of lesbian women being targeted for ‘corrective’ rape every week in Cape Town alone. Figures suggest there are an estimated 500,000 rapes in South Africa every year and for every 25 men accused of rape in the country, 24 walk free.
The report, titled Hate Crimes, claims that victims often report that their attackers say they are "teaching them a lesson" or showing them how to be a "real woman". Zanele Twala, Director of ActionAid South Africa, said: “So-called ‘corrective’ rape is yet another grotesque manifestation of violence against women, the most widespread human rights violation in the world today. These crimes continue unabated and with impunity, while governments simply turn a blind eye.” One victim told ActionAid: “We get insults every day, beatings if we walk alone, you are constantly reminded that you deserve to be raped. "They yell ‘if I rape you then you will go straight, that you will buy skirts and start to cook because you will have learnt how to be a real woman’."
Thirty-one lesbian women have been reported murdered in homophobic attacks since 1998, yet there has only been one conviction. However, support groups have claimed that the actual number of women killed is likely to be much higher because hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation are not recognised in the country’s criminal justice system. Ms Twala has called on foreign governments to help stop the tide of violence.
She said: “It is clear that the South African government must put a stop to these crimes against women and fulfil the promises of the constitution. Worldwide, it is utterly unacceptable that millions of women and girls live daily in fear of their lives. The international community have a duty to address violence against women as the most serious threat to security in the world today."
5 March 2009 – plusnews.org
South Africa: Sexy new HIV prevention campaign for gays
Cape Town (PlusNews) – Dance music pumps from large speakers while a half dozen shirtless young men serve drinks at a bar bathed in pink light. It is the last weekend of Gay Pride in Cape Town, South Africa, and men of all ages have come to a "fetish party" to launch a safe-sex campaign, "Play Nice", targeting men who have sex with men (MSM). Whether bound in black leather straps or attired in khakis and collared shirts, everyone here is bombarded by projected images of gay men, many nude, carrying messages about HIV, safe sex and treatment; posters with more messages liberally adorn the walls.
The campaign is run by Health4Men, a programme of the Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU) of theJohannesburg-based Witwatersrand University aimed at men in underserved populations, including MSM and unemployed young men, and is the first large-scale campaign specifically geared to get HIV-related messaging to the MSM community. The MSM community has historically had a very low profile in the HIV/AIDS conversation in Africa, despite having an HIV prevalence rate two to three times higher than the heterosexual population.
Glenn De Swardt, co-director of Health4Men and a leading expert on gay issues in South Africa, said the project could not have come at a better time. "Even though they have the information, they’re not practicing safe sex consistently – we know it and they know it – so we’re tying to make safe sex messaging sexier." Using the internet, mobile phone technology, traditional media and direct campaigns, Play Nice hopes to reach various groups of MSM in novel, pro-sex ways that will appeal to them.
"The paradigm is sex-positive – most messaging comes from a hetero-normative paradigm. A guy hears, ‘You must abstain because your sex is bad.’ Patriarchy teaches us that men penetrate, don’t get penetrated, so there’s shame there. We say, ‘Let’s celebrate [MSM sex], let’s talk about it, and let’s be responsible’," De Swardt told IRIN/PlusNews.
Health4Men has collected a database of phone numbers, and uses techniques like sending out a bulk text message on a Friday night, reminding guys who are "playing" to bring condoms and lubricant. Later in the evening another text message might be sent, informing recipients that if they have had unsafe sex, they have 48 hours to begin post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and giving a number they can contact to receive treatment. Health4Men has an office in Cape Town’s "gay village" of De Waterkant, holds seminars at gay venues, posts articles in the gay newspaper, Pink Tongue, and distributes messages in the lockers at a steam bath frequented by MSM.
A clinic for men
According to De Swardt, the average gay man in South Africa doesn’t know his HIV status. Numerous MSM told IRIN/PlusNews that part of the reason MSM do not go to be tested is because they are embarrassed to go to "normal" clinics. "For the gay community, people feel embarrassed to go to the local government clinic where they are known. To have sores in your mouth or down there … if you can go to a special clinic where you’re comfortable and won’t be discriminated against, that’s good," said Prosper Mandy at the Play Nice launch party. Health4Men will be opening a facility at the Ivan Toms Centre for Men’s Health in the Cape Town suburb of Woodstock in the coming months. De Swardt describes it as a "male friendly" space.
"Personnel are all male, though not necessarily all gay," he said. All services will be free, and will include HIV tests, CD4 counts to measure immune system strength, viral load testing to check the quantity of HI-virus in the body, screening for sexually transmitted infections, counselling, and antiretroviral and other treatments. Dr Kevin Rebe, an infectious disease specialist and HIV physician who will be the primary medical officer, said the clinic would adhere to all Department of Health guidelines, but would be "more holistic".
"We’re assessing sexual risk in greater detail; we are extra tailored to higher-risk populations." In addition to physical care, "we deal with psychosexual issues that really affect sexual activity, like impulsivity, sexual addiction, and the use of drugs and alcohol." Health4Men distributes free lubricants along with condoms, a vital component of safe anal sex. De Swardt also runs support groups for HIV-positive men. "In the next three months I want to have three support groups running: one for people who have just found out their status, one for those with difficulty adjusting to it, and a third for those going into treatment."
Coming out, "out there"
Referring to the black and coloured townships around Cape Town, Prosper Mandy said: "The problem is getting the message out there to the communities. As you can see, most people here [at the fetish party] are middle- and upper-class, so the question is how to get the services out there, and how to get them to come here." De Swardt commented: "This campaign has been designed specifically for urban … gay men. This campaign – the way it exists now – cannot be replicated in the Cape Flats [an area of large coloured townships] or the black townships. You can’t just take a campaign from one community and drop it in another."
The current Play Nice campaign is a trial run for larger campaigns to be rolled out during the year. Health4Men has set up the process for research among the various socioeconomic groups in the black and coloured communities around Cape Town. "Based on that research, we’ll design similar campaigns, but we don’t know what they look like yet," De Swardt said. Adiel Peters, the administrator of the Woodstock Clinic and an MSM from the Cape Flats who runs support groups for MSM in Manenberg and Bonteheuwel townships, believes that direct support to MSM in the townships is desperately needed.
"At the moment there are no services specifically around MSM in those communities. Discrimination also affects service delivery – people won’t always give you the same level of service if they have preconceived thoughts about you being gay. Sometimes MSM are not taken seriously, or are chased away," Peters told IRIN/PlusNews. "MSM in my community mostly engage in spontaneous sex – it’s about meeting a guy in the street at night and deciding to have sex for a number of reasons: enjoyment, financial gains … most are reliant on substances, so it could be an exchange for drugs or alcohol. And because it’s spontaneous they don’t have condoms and engage in barebacking," he said. "They’re usually intoxicated, can’t even remember what they did the night before; they wake up the next morning on the side of the street or in someone’s home they don’t know, and have had sex with people they don’t know or can’t remember."
Hoping to reach those communities, De Swardt has suggested that the new campaigns attempt to avoid the stigma of being MSM by providing testing and messaging in places like pharmacies, or even hairdressing salons. "We have more resources for the new campaigns than we’ve had for the current one – we’re investing quite heavily in this preventative thing," said De Swardt. "It’s the first time this kind of thing – MSM, multimedia, sex-positive kind of messaging – has been done in South Africa, and a lot more money will go into the next non-Eurocentric campaigns."
March 10, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Secret lives of lesotho gays and lesbians (by Mask Admin)
by Lesego Tlhwale (BTM intern)
Lespotho – The myth that homosexuality is unAfrican seems to be debunked each day as, among other things, more and more homosexuals surface in different countries of this continent. With the Kingdom of Lesotho being famous for adherence to its Basotho traditions, many mistook it for a gay free country. However, recently gay and lesbian people have surfaced in that country, with a short term goal of fighting for recognition, not only by society but also by the ruling kingdom.
Even though there are no laws criminalising homosexual conduct in Lesotho many homosexuals live secret lives, fearing possible discrimination from their families and community, should they come out. Talking about being a lesbian in Lesotho, 30 year old Kgati Maila* who resides in one of Lesotho’s rural villages says people in her community, influenced by cultural beliefs, view homosexuality as an inhuman act of evil. Even sharing her story with Behind the Mask seems to be difficult for this working class woman, who has been in the closet for more than 13 years.
She however discloses that she shares a house with her partner who is 40, and the partners 19 year old daughter, while her 13 year old daughter stays with her mother. Our life is normal even though it is a secret. Our families suspect that we are lesbians but they are not sure, even though there are rumours that we might be dating, Maila says. Asked of the time she discovered her sexuality, she says After having a child at 17, I realised that I was attracted to women and since then I had no doubt about my sexuality.
Even though she says she is not proud of her behaviour, Maila explained how she and her partner often have misunderstandings that lead to her [Maila] being violent towards her. She would even seek protection from the police and elderly people in the area. This behavior has been one of the reasons that led to her being taken to the chief, by her partners family, to clear her name in 2007. They wanted me to say in front of the chief that I am not a lesbian. They even instructed me to stop seeing my partner and said I should move back home, since it is not acceptable for me to share a house with a woman.
According to Maila, discrimination of homosexuals is not widespread in Lesotho. She says this could be because many gays and lesbians are staying in the closet, only out to their peers. Maila is not the only one, Thabiso Kikume* is a gay man, one of many homosexuals in that country. He coordinates a one-year-old unregistered LGBTI support group called Matrix Discussion Group in the countrys capital Maseru. The group was, according to Kikume, started by a group of gay men from the US and some from Maseru, who saw a gap in the country regarding the issues around LGBTI community.
The group meets secretly every Saturday, at a local church, to discuss issues affecting homosexuals in the area. Part of the discussions is about identity crises amongst lesbians, as they are women and are expected to dress in a certain respectable way. We also discuss health issues. He adds that the group is looking at registering as a gay organisation and approaching the government, with a view to have the LGBTI community recognised in Lesotho. While it has not done much on the issue of HIV and AIDS, the group is planning a workshop this week which will teach the LGBTI community about dangers of HIV/AIDS amongst same-sex relationships.
Part of the workshop will cover prevention strategies for homosexuals against HIV/AIDS and STIs. He added that invitations to the workshop are mainly done by word-of-mouth as they don’t want to make group members uncomfortable by inviting the community at large. We are hoping for a great turnout even though many gay people are in the closet, Kikume concluded.
March 16, 2009 – PinkNews.com
Interview: Britain’s gay Consul General to Cape Town
by Jessica Geen
Coming from Leeds polytechnic university, Richard Wood was always going to be an unusual diplomat. Currently, he heads the British Consulate in Cape Town and lives in the city with his partner, riding a red Vespa to work. After graduating from university, he found that the Foreign Office fast stream programme only accepted graduates from Oxford or Cambridge. After working for a time at the British Embassy in Bonne, he was encouraged to try again and was successful as the first poly student to be accepted.
Richard, 41, has been living in Cape Town for two years and will serve for another two years before returning to London. He got married in South Africa in December to his partner, an investment banking consultant. He said: "It’s a very laid-back, interesting job but part of our life is that we move every three or four years. You look forward to new challenges. Cape Town is a seaside city, a fun place to live. Big cities such as Cape Town and Johannesberg have quite large gay communities and Cape Town has a vibrant gay life. It’s well-accepted.
"Increasingly, we’re seeing more LGBT tourism as Cape Town is now considered a popular gay holiday destination." However, he admitted there were still problems with homophobic violence, saying: "It is a problem. Legislation is very liberal but that doesn’t necessarily change attitudes on the ground. There is lots of discrimination and violence, particularly against lesbians, especially if they are openly gay. However, it’s not something I have encountered personally. Although I do get a lot of invitations addressed to Mr and Mrs Wood."
He praised Cape Town for its relaxed climate, saying it was "perfect" for nipping around on his red Vespa. "It does raise a few eyebrows when I turn up on it to official functions. The other consuls look quite surprised." He highlighted the change the Foreign Office has seen over the last twenty years, contending that although "it hasn’t always been like this", it is "unheard of" for anyone to encounter discrimination on a daily basis.
"The Foreign Office is such a good organisation in terms of diversity and it scored highly on Stonewall’s list of gay-friendly employers. That’s very encouraging and it’s a reassuring work environment." One of his fondest memories is accompanying Princess Diana to meet Nelson Mandela a few months before she died.
"Her brother was living out here at the time. I picked her up from the airport and looked after her. She wanted to meet Nelson Mandela. In those days, everyone wanted to meet him. They had a very relaxed and friendly chat. It was a fascinating experience. We had a long chat in the VIP lounge at the airport – I wouldn’t want to say what we talked about. We talked about a vast range of things. Actually, we have another royal visitor in the next few months. No two days are the same.
"It’s an interesting career – very well-managed. It used to be that jobs like this were reserved for older people, at the end of their careers. Now there are a lot more younger heads of post than there used to be. It’s a dynamic career, you can pursue your own interests. Eventually, I’d like to be an ambassador in Cuba or Buenos Aires, somewhere like that. I can’t speak Spanish yet but they teach you. I’ve had to learn a bit of Afrikaans and Zulu for this posting. I just hope it will fit in with normal family life."
21 April 2009 – Behind The Mask
Queer Muslims To Tackle Shariah On Sexual Minorities
by Lesego Thlwale (BTM Intern)
South Africa – Queer Muslims can expect much more than just spiritual upliftment during The Inner Circle (TIC)’s Annual International Retreat starting on 24 – 27 April in Cape Town, they are in for educational empowerment and recreation too. The impact of the Shariah on gender and sexual minorities in Africa is this year’s theme which, according TIC, was inspired by a rise in queer related incidences in Africa such as the fact that homosexuality is illegal and carries a death sentence in 12 Northern states that impose the Shariah Law.
The rise in hate crimes in South Africa where 31 lesbians have been attacked since 1998 is said to be another reason that TIC decided on this theme. “Between 11 and 13 February 2009 the United Nations Universal Periodic review in Geneva also created a lot of resistance from African states such as Senegal and Nigeria”, TIC said in a statement.
The retreat, to be held at Monkey Valley Resort, will also focus on providing a progressive Islamic perspective on violence against Muslim women in Africa, particularly lesbians. It also aims to develop an independent and analytical approach to queer issues and to produce post retreat publications which would raise consciousness, empower and further dialogue on queer Muslim issues.
“Over the last decade we have discovered, as an organisation, that queer Muslims struggle to make peace with their sexuality and their faith. They often trade in the one at the expense of the other and find it difficult to accept both identities”, Pepe Hendricks of Inner Circle revealed. He added “As such, The Inner Circle has made some inroads and empowered quite a number of queer Muslims and imparted tools that help them to retain both identities and resolve conflicts. However these individuals still have to go to their conservative communities at the end of the day and most queer Muslims are not empowered to deal with the residing homophobia in their communities.”
Amongst guest speakers are Imam Pamela Taylor who will be talking about ijtihadic (independent reasoning) and homosexuality in Islam, Dr Sa’diyya about patriarchy and feminist perspectives on Quranic interpretation and Fatima Noordiern who will be talking about the Quranic response to violence against women. “This [retreat] is one of its kind in Africa, and it is so exiting that we have Muslims who are queer as well as allies of queers coming to discuss issues of the Quran, Shariah and sexual diversity”, Hendricks concluded.
April 20, 2009 – dailyqueernews.com
South Africa’s Paradox for Gays: Progressive Laws, Persistent Hate
Posted by Daily Queer News
by Shashank Bengali – McClatchy Newspapers – Miami Herald
Khayelitsha, South Africa — Late one night last June, Pumeza Runeyi was at home in bed with her girlfriend when she heard a pack of men outside her door. They rapped on her window and called her name in menacing voices that suggested only one thing. Quit being a lesbian, Runeyi, 25, recalled them saying. Come on, you’ll enjoy it. We’re not going to hurt you. We just want to teach you to be a real woman.
The noise woke her neighbors and the men melted into the night, but the next day Runeyi, her girlfriend and their two roommates – both gay – moved out of the house and haven’t returned. In Khayelitsha Township, a sea of tin-roof shacks outside Cape Town, being gay can get you beaten or raped, or worse. There’s a devastating paradox about homosexuality in South Africa: A country that boasts some of the most advanced gay-rights laws in the world has a population that’s profoundly homophobic. In surveys, more than 80 percent of South Africans say same-sex relationships are “always wrong,” according to the Human Sciences Research Council, an independent research organization.
May 7, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Health Centre Set To Bridge Service Gap For Gays
by Mongezi Mhlongo (BTM Reporter)
South Africa – Results of a needs assessment by OUT LGBT-Wellbeing that showed that many homosexual people, among other risky behaviors, feel uncomfortable talking about safer sex, gave birth to the PRISM Lifestyle Centre to be launched in Tshwane tomorrow, Friday 08 May 2009. This health and wellness centre is professionally staffed and offers all professional services free of charge but a R20 facility fee to cover administrative costs.
The Centre, according to founders, aims to provide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people an alternative LGBT affirming and health-promoting space with increased direct services such as face to face counseling, support groups, and primary healthcare services. “It also aims to facilitate workshops that will encourage positive sexual behaviour, offer life skills, advice on risk reduction and a range of activities such as book clubs, interest groups and yoga”, said Jacques Livingston, Sexual Health Manager at OUT LGBT Wellbeing.
With the hope to bridge the service delivery gap the centre will also offer LGBTI focused health services such as the primary health care services. “The primary health services include HIV testing, STI testing and diagnosis, selected lab work, general physical examinations, PAP smears, referral and follow-up and treatment literacy”, said Livingston Expatiating on the results of the needs assessment Livingston said it highlighted a range of individual and contextual determinants that influence sexual risk-taking among those sampled.
“Of these multiple determinants it became clear that a large portion of LGBT people feel isolated and disconnected from others. Many feel a sense of shame and guilt about their sexual orientation. Many feel pressured to take risks because of negative peer norms that exist in their social and sexual networks”, he said. The Prism Lifestyle Centre is currently working with a range of drug treatment facilities in Pretoria and Joburg.
“We also have an office in the Hillbrow Health Precinct, Mamelodi Hospital and shortly in Nelspruit”, said Livingston He also noted that “The Prism Centre will also develop strong collaborative ties with other service providers in Pretoria and Joburg.” In its quest to serve the LGBT community on the areas of mental health, sexual health, advocacy and mainstreaming, OUT will re-launch the men to men website next week and will develop a sister site for women later this year. The centre will be officially opened by comedian, Marc Lottering.
May 29, 2009 – ABC News
Being Gay in South Africa, Lesbians Fear ‘Corrective’ Rape – Homophobic Men Are Raping, Murdering Lesbians in a Bid to ‘Turn Them Straight’
by Dana Hughes
Nairobi, Kenya – South Africa is considered the most progressive country in Sub-Saharan Africa. The country boasts a developed economy, and has a post-apartheid constitution that stresses equal rights for everyone. It’s one of the few countries in the world with a specific provision in its constitution prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians. It’s also the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa where there are openly gay bars. But behind the gay-friendly exterior of South Africa, lies the reality: a society that remains, for the most part, virulently homophobic.
Like much of the rest of the continent, attitudes towards homosexuality range from being viewed as unnatural or "un-African" to people calling it "a condition" that comes from and is encouraged by the West. Nowhere is this more evident than in the practice of "corrective" rape: men raping women who have come out as lesbians in an effort to "turn them straight." Many of these woman end up being murdered. "Corrective rape is a horrific confluence of two things in South Africa: violence against women and a rising tide of homophobia and hatred against homosexuals," Laura Turquet, a women’s rights advocate, told ABC News.
Turquet researched and authored a recent report for ActionAid, an international anti-poverty organization, focusing primarily on women’s rights. The report found that in the last 10 years at least 31 women had been killed in sexual-orientation hate crimes. But human rights groups say that number is deceptive. Even though the South African constitution specifically prohibits discrimination against homosexuals, crimes against gays and lesbians are not categorized as hate crimes under the legal system, so violence against lesbians is often not recorded.
"Some of the women we spoke to said that when they went to the police to report being abused sexually, they told us that the police were more interested in asking the women why they were lesbians than investigating the assault," Turquet said. To date, of the 31 reported cases of corrective rape and subsequent murders, only one person has been convicted. One man pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of Eudy Simelane, a one-time national soccer player and outspoken gay right’s advocate. She was murdered in 2007, found gang raped with 25 stab wounds throughout her body. Four other men have been charged.
The trial for three of the men, who have pleaded not guilty is under way. But despite friends’ testimony that Simelane had endured constant threats for being an out lesbian, the judge in her killer’s case refused to acknowledge that it was a motivating factor, reportedly saying during sentencing that her sexual orientation had "no significance" in her murder.
Police No Help to Victims of ‘Corrective Rape’
Many victims of corrective rape said they often don’t even bother going to the police. Phumla, a resident of the Soweto township outside of Johannesburg said she was raped by men she trusted after accepting a ride home from soccer practice. Instead of taking her home, they took her to a house where another man awaited and raped her. She said they repeatedly told her they were "teaching her a lesson" throughout the attack.
"When it happened to me, ‘corrective’ rape felt like the worst kind of violence that someone could have inflicted on my person," said Phumla, "As lesbians, we know we are in danger, but we still let those guys drive us home. So I didn’t report it to the police because I felt like we couldn’t." Rape, in general, is a pervasive problem in South Africa. There were more than 50,000 reported rapes last year, but women’s rights groups estimate only one in nine in rapes are reported. Some statistics run as high as 500,000 and estimate that a woman in South Africa is raped every 26 seconds.
Yet most rapists continue to go free. A study conducted by Tshwaranang, a legal advocacy center focused on ending violence against women in South Africa, showed that in the Johannesburg area, for every 25 men who are tried for rape, 24 go free.
Even the country’s new president Jacob Zuma has faced allegations of rape. Three years ago, Zuma was acquitted of raping a family friend and anti-AIDS activist. He was criticized by women’s rights organizations for comments made during his testimony. He told the judge that his accuser wore a mini-skirt to his house and revealed her thigh, indicating that she wanted to have sex with him. He said that, according to the Zulu culture, the tribe from which he belongs, his accuser was aroused and he was obligated to have sex with her. "In the Zulu culture, you cannot just leave a woman if she is ready," he testified.
Despite the outrage from South African human right’s groups, his insistence that he was simply behaving as an African man — even testifying in his native Zulu, just increased his popularity with the general population. Turquet says, in spite of South Africa’s progressive constitution and legislation regarding women and homosexual rights, the legal system still reflects cultural values and "is lagging behind."
Women’s Bodies Have Become War Zones
As president, Zuma has selected more women than the previous administration for Cabinet positions and has pledged his commitment to protecting the rights of women, but there are signs that attitudes toward rape and homosexuality throughout the population remain the same. Last year the South Africa Human Rights Commission issued a report on primary and secondary school violence. One of the findings pointed to "a growing phenomenon" of the acceptance of corrective rape from the next generation of South African men.
Phumi Metwa, director of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Project, says she thinks the violence is actually getting worse. Her organization has tried to educate women and men on gender and sexual orientation sensitivity. But she says as a lesbian, she often feels threatened herself, like a "time bomb" could go off at anytime, making her a victim. "Women’s bodies have become war zones," said Metwa. "We are trying to say that if women work together, we can change attitudes, but for now, we live in fear every day."
03 June 2009 – Behind The Mask
Rape Of Gay Man Sparks Provincial Protest
by Lesego Tlhwale (BTM Intern)
South Africa – Trial for a rape case of a gay man known only as Luanda will be heard on 22 June this year following its postponement on Friday 29 May as two of the three accused did not pitch up. On Friday members of the Western Cape End Hate Alliance gathered outside the Blue Downs Magistrate Court to protest against this homophobic attack and to offer support to the victim. Luanda was allegedly raped and left in the ditch of his eMfuleni township home on 26 April last year. Three men were initially arrested and later released on bail following their appearance in court on 11 March 2009.
According to Triangle Project (TRP) this is the first case of rape of a black gay man from the township that has reached trial in the province and it is expected to ensure justice for Luanda and all the other gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people whose cases never reached a court room. “The latest hearing is part of a broader campaign to pressure the South African criminal justice system to strengthen its human rights protections of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals”, TRP said in a statement.
Musa Ngubane of Triangle Project revealed that a warrant of arrest was issued for the two accused that did not show up. “Because it was raining heavily on Friday the demonstrations also could not be as effective as we would have liked them to be, however pamphlets with a synopsis of Luanda’s case, our demands, other heterosexist hate crimes in the Western Cape were handed out to patrons at the court on Friday”, Ngubane added.
Amongst other demands the Western Cape End Hate Alliance wants the criminal justice system to “uphold victims’ rights as set out in the Victims Charter and the Minimum Standards on Services for Victims of Crime.” The alliance also demands that the court commits to ensuring that victims are not subjected to further discrimination on accounts of their sexual orientation or gender presentation during the trial.
June 11, 2009 – Behind the Mask
Aluta Continua! On Youth Month
by Mask Admin
It is Youth Month! On 16 June South Africa will commemorate the role played by its youth in the struggle against apartheid in the 70s. For the gay community this struggle continues. Here is how SA’s LGBTI youth is advancing the struggle for recognition of their rights!
What are the little things that you do on a daily basis to advance the strugle for recognition of LGBTI rights?
I am very open about my sexuality and try to educate people about sexuality matters on a daily basis and mostly I talk to young women about living with HIV as I am an activist, a mother, grandmother and a lesbian woman. I work at a hospital and work with HIV infected patients and my job at the hospital is to counsel and motivate HIV positive women to be positive about life and try ad show them that there’s life after being diagnosed.
Kedibone Gare: Co-Owner of Open Closet
I empower young aspiring musicians especially gay and lesbians by inviting them to come and play live at our club, in that way they get exposure and experience in the entertainment industry.
Bibi Nkosi: Co-Owner of Open Closet / Fud Fundi Caterer
I help young lesbians with advice on how to live freely and comfortable in their own skin by talking to them. On the other hand I educate the community by trying to remove the stereotypical thoughts that lesbians are supposed to be butch only and nothing else, am atleast trying to make them look at lesbians with an open eye and know that a lesbian women can be anyone, butch, feminine, black, white or Indian.
Phindi Malaza: Forum For The Empowerment of Women (FEW)
I try and assist people be comfortable with themselves in order to face problems they are going to face on a daily basis. Basically just to meet people and educate them and in return learn from them.
Puseletso Moshodi: Hope And Unity Metropolitan Community Church
When I come across heterosexual people or find myself in the company of straight people, I make sure that I make them familiar with homosexual issues. People are homophobic because they don’t know anything about homosexuality. Educating them will help them understand us better and maybe eradicate homophobia. Another thing is to educate people that one can be a lesbian and a Christian as well and that there’s nothing wrong with being homosexual and a Christian at the same time.
Me, for now, I just live my lesbian life with dignity, passion and no apologies.
I am involved in the projects by Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) an organization that empowers young lesbian women like me. Every now and then I try to get together with peers of my age so we can talk about life and issues affecting us as lesbian women.
Emily Craven: Joint Working Group
I am an out lesbian and I work for a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersexual (LGBTI) NGO. I helped facilitate the youth Lekgotla which was held in Cape Town in April.
Sekoetlane Jacob Phamodi: SRC-Rhodes University
By being who I am, and connecting with others through what I’ve lived. By identifying the common struggles I share with people, this goes a long way in moving the struggle forward in that, the connections I manage to make with people facilitates their understanding of and sensitivity to this one aspect of my identity. Recognising and utilising the multiplicity of our individual identity allows us to connect with others through our shared experiences which, in turn, transform people’s perceptions of who we are."
I give back to those who need my assistance especially young ones….take part in every charity event hosted in Mzasi
Kyle Carson: Rainbow UCT University of Cape Town
I found a wonderful quote that states, “Any gay person who’s true to themselves and out is in some form or another, an activist.” I try to live my life according to that principle. I’m in no way, shape or form proclaiming that I’m an activist – but I do feel that being out and open about who I am and proud about it does make a difference, however small.
I have recently helped someone who was about to make the biggest mistake of her life by marrying the opposite sex just because family expected her to, forgetting that she is the only one who will be tortured all her life by living a lie.
June 24, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Reasearch Puts Rural Gays Under Spotlight
by Lesego Tlhwale (BTM Intern)
South Africa – The University of South Africa (UNISA) together with Gay Umbrella, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) organisation in the North West Province, have joined forces in a two year systematic research project that will provide important insights into the rural perspective of gays and lesbians. The project is set to focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals in rural areas of the North West Province with a view to get a closer look at their lives and the challenges they face on a daily basis in terms of empowerment.
Three similar studies have already been done in other provinces, where the focus has been on the urban experience. However, according to Gay Umbrella, the current research project is unique in that it will focus mainly on marginalised rural gay people. The Gay Umbrella committee members, under the chairmanship of Mildred Maropefela, “felt there was a need to do extensive research into the LGBTI community to ascertain their needs, which would inform future programs and projects of the Gay Umbrella. OUT LGBTI Well-being has also been involved in this project by introducing Gay UNISA’s Centre for Applied Psychology (UCAP).
UCAP was about to embark on an extensive research project to measure the level of empowerment among members of the LGBTI community, and Gay Umbrella became the local partner, helping to focus the research on the North West Province as a case study. The project is funded by the South African Netherlands Research Programme on Alternative Developments (SANPAD), a unique collaborative research programme financed by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project started taking form in the first week of February 2009. “The week-long start up workshop was the first step in bringing together the four research partners, as well as LGBTI people and provincial and national organisations interested in the field”, Gay Umbrella said in a statement.
Other organizations in the province that took part were the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE), Department of Health, South African Police Service (SAPS), Youth Commission, Provincial Council on Aids etc. The workshop took the form of various focus groups and field visits. This type of sessions showed a lot of support and understanding from the community at large with important people and organisations pledging their help on issues affecting the LGBTI community. “We were happily surprised to see openness about LGBTI issues in the North West Province and willingness to better understand what it means to be gay”, Professor Sandfort from Columbia University in Amsterdam University said.
The next phase will start at the beginning of July 2009 and will focus on collecting necessary data from LGBTI individuals where they will be asked to fill in an extensive questionnaire. The data collection will be done by senior and postgraduate students in the Human and Social Science from the University of the North West, who were trained as field workers during the month of April 2009. The project is set to be completed in 2010 whereby researchers will be report on their findings.
However the merger won’t stop there as Gay Umbrella management team will be assisted in designing and implementing programmes and projects based on the needs that are identified and financial support will be provided for their effort. “All of this will in the end be of benefit to LGBTI individuals and hopefully, will lead to a more active cohesive gay community”, Gay Umbrella said.
June 18, 2009 – The Star
Ugandan activist punished for transgender identity…Victor Juliet Mukasa chosen as international grand marshal by Pride for human rights work
by Elvira Cordileone, Staff Reporter
Grace and persistence under almost unendurable circumstances have earned Victor Juliet Mukasa a place at the head of this year’s Pride parade. Still, for someone who’s been punished because of his gender identity, "a transperson," as the 33-year-old Ugandan calls himself, the prospect of serving as Pride Week’s international grand marshal is scarey. In an interview from Cape Town, where he is a researcher for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Mukasa sees irony in his situation. Although he promotes the rights of people like himself, only six years ago, he had no idea terminology existed to describe his gender identity.
Mukasa is biologically female. In Uganda, people expected him to act like one and, when he didn’t (couldn’t, he insists), his father and his school beat him for acting like a boy.
In a 2006 speech to the International Lesbian and Gay Association in Geneva, Mukasa lists some of the abuses transgender people face in Africa. They are:
Raped to prove they’re women.
Publicly mocked and beaten by police.
Forcibly undressed and humiliated.
Evicted by landlords.
"I became so desperate. I asked myself, `Why is this happening to me?’ And I had an answer: `Because I am a lesbian and because of how I present myself,’" Mukasa says. But he refused to bend and paid for it by becoming an outcast. His family shunned him, and today he lives in self-imposed exile. Mukasa’s activism began seven years ago when, after living in painful isolation, he met a group of lesbians and realized others suffered the same as he did.
Around that same time, he lost his job for refusing to wear skirts to work. "I said to myself, `Where is the dignity? Where is the respect?’ I think the only option some of us are left with is to fight for this to come to an end," he says. In the next few years, Mukasa co-founded several rights organizations in Uganda and joined a long list of African-based and international groups working for human rights. But in July 2005 his outspokenness brought Ugandan police to his home on the outskirts of Kampala. Without a warrant, they seized documents relating to the activities of the Sexual Minorities Uganda group he ran, and arrested Yvonne Oyoo, a guest in his house.
During the search, treatment of the pair bordered on indecent assault, according to a December 2008 International Federation for Human Rights newsletter. Mukasa sued the government for the illegal search but was forced into deep hiding. A safe house became his prison from July 2005 to June 2006. "It was miserable for me standing up against the government," he says. "My soul was broken. I felt a part of me was dead, except the fighting spirit for gay rights."
After almost a year in virtual isolation, friends helped him reach Johannesburg so he could "breathe some fresh air." But Mukasa willingly went back to Uganda in May 2007 when his lawsuit began. He had committed no crime, so the government had no cause to arrest him outright. Nevertheless, he feared for his life and went into hiding. Forced to live like a criminal, even though he’d committed no crime, and depend on others for survival, he grasped the job opening in Cape Town as a lifeline.
"It was too much for me," he says. "I prayed. I’m a Christian and I prayed to God for this job." Mukasa speaks of his work with pride. It makes him useful to others and earns him salary, so he no longer feels like a beggar. The job also keeps him out of Uganda – for now, until things cool down for him there.
July 2009 – Open Society Institute
Rights Not Rescue
Female, Male, and Trans Sex Workers’ Human Rights in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa
Date: June 2009
Author: Jayne Arnott and Anna-Louise Crago
Sex workers are subjected to widespread human rights abuses, including police violence and unequal access to health care, in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. Despite enormous challenges, sex workers are organizing to protect their rights and demand an end to violence and discrimination.
Published by the Open Society Institute, Rights Not Rescue is based on a series of interviews and focus groups with sex workers and advocates throughout the three countries.
August 20, 2009 – Lezgetreal.com
Controversial Gender Verification for South African Teen; 800m Track and Field Champ
by Melanie N.
Caster Semenya, an 18-year-old South African, dominated the women’s 800 meters in Berlin on Wednesday at the 2009 World Championships. While she ought to be track and field’s newest star, instead, in less than the time it took to win the race, 1:55.45 minutes, the accomplishment produced a hail of speculation, one ominously oozing with gender, racial and political insinuations. Semenya crossed the finish line in what should have been one of the triumphs of a young life and the pride of a country whose sports stars wear crowns of national heroes. However instead her sexual identity was placed into question, negating the well deserved glory, at least and hopefully for a short time only.
Having spent my childhood in sport crazy South Africa during the astounding world record days of backstroke swimmer 12 year old hero, Karen Muir, I understand the excitement of a teenage wonder and sincerely hope that she will safely remain recognized as a woman with an outstanding achievement. Looking at the pictures she seems to me like a magnificently well built young woman.
Caster Semenya is muscular and broad. Seven of the women in the field competed in strappy bra tops complimented by either boy shorts or bikini-style bottoms; Caster Semenya raced in a top that looked more like a tight half T-shirt and in jammer-style shorts that extended down nearly to her knees. She won by more than two seconds in a race in which it can be normal to win by hundredths. The runner-up, Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei, was the 2007 Worlds winner in this event.
After the amazing run, the IAAF’s general secretary, Pierre Weiss, disclosed that the investigation was two-fold, ongoing both in South Africa and in Berlin. Officials citing medical privacy concerns, still mentioned the age old and now almost extinct gender verification tests will be conducted to determine her gender. Davies stressed that the situation was not one in which authorities suspect fraud — that is, the deliberate entry of one known to be a man in a woman’s race. Instead, he said, the question is whether Caster Semenya is entitled to be in the women’s draw.
“There is a need, of course, to make sure that the rules are followed and make clear women should compete in women’s competitions,” he said, adding the IAAF was “absolutely” taking the matter “seriously.”
The complexities of the matter are hardly limited to issues of gender. Caster Semenya is black in a country still struggling to emerge from decades of institutionalized racism. From a time when black South Africans could not compete against white South Africans and from a reality where the Country was specifically banned from the Olympics and International sport. Her gold is South Africa’s first medal at the 2009 Worlds and that country’s track and field authorities had to know going into these championships that it might well be South Africa’s only medal. Should this young star have been tossed onto the world stage in such a manner and should the competitors and officials have welcomed her in this unorthodox fashion simply for how she looks? What about her dignity as a human, an ambassador for her Country and as an athlete.
Her coach, Michael Seme, was quoted in a story published on the South African website sport24 as saying, “We understand that people will ask questions because she looks like a man. It’s a natural reaction and it’s only human to be curious.” However Castor does not have male body parts and considers herself a woman so what the heck – just because she is so good and has a gorgeous muscular physique. Gender verification can involve medical and other physical evaluations that require expertise in gynecology, psychology, internal medicine and in the combination of features that typically distinguish female from male.
It used to be the case in the 1960s in Olympic circles that sex-verification tests were common for female athletes. The IOC in the late 1990s abolished widespread use of the practice. Even so, there remain some cases in international competitions in which the gender of an athlete becomes at issue. In 2006, for instance, a middle-distance runner from –India, Santhi Soudarajan, lost her silver medal at the Asian Games after failing a sex-verification test.
Lets see what happens in the meantime I say “jolly well done young lady!”
Information obtained from other news sources: AP Berlin- By Ryan Lucas and Caster Semenya: The champion, the controversy Alan Abrahamson / Universal Sports
August 22, 2009 – AlterNet
Stop the Humiliating ‘Sex-Testing’ of Champion Runner Caster Semenya
by Dave Zirin and Sherry Wolf, The Nation
World-class South African athlete Caster Semenya, age 18, won the 800 meters in the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships on August 19. But her victory was all the more remarkable in that she was forced to run amid a controversy that reveals the twisted way international track and field views gender.
The sports world has been buzzing for some time over the rumor that Semenya may be a man, or more specifically, not "entirely female." According to the newspaper The Age, her "physique and powerful style have sparked speculation in recent months that she may not be entirely female." From all accounts an arduous process of "gender testing" on Semenya has already begun. The idea that an 18-year-old who has just experienced the greatest athletic victory of her life is being subjecting to this very public humiliation is shameful to say the least.
Her own coach Michael Seme contributed to the disgrace when he said, "We understand that people will ask questions because she looks like a man. It’s a natural reaction and it’s only human to be curious. People probably have the right to ask such questions if they are in doubt. But I can give you the telephone numbers of her roommates in Berlin. They have already seen her naked in the showers and she has nothing to hide."
The people with something to hide are the powers that be in track and field, as well as in international sport. As long as there have been womens’ sports, the characterization of the best female athletes as "looking like men" or "mannish" has consistently been used to degrade them. When Martina Navratilova dominated women’s tennis and proudly exposed her chiseled biceps years before Hollywood gave its imprimatur to gals with "guns," players complained that she "must have a chromosome loose somewhere."
This minefield of sexism and homophobia has long pushed female athletes into magazines like Maxim to prove their "hotness" — and implicitly their heterosexuality. Track and field in particular has always had this preoccupation with gender, particularly when it crosses paths with racism. Fifty years ago, Olympic official Norman Cox proposed that in the case of black women, "the International Olympic Committee should create a special category of competition for them — the unfairly advantaged ‘hermaphrodites.’"
August 31, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Anglican Church Welcomes Aand Guides Gay Church Members
by Lesego Tlhwale (BTM Intern)
South Africa – The Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) under the guidance of The Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba has passed a Resolution to provide Pastoral guidelines for the gay and lesbian members of the church living in covenanted partnerships. This decision comes after a Synod of bishops met at the Diocese of Cape Town from the 20 – 22 August this year which was held at St. Cyprians’ Church of Cape Town.
According to an ACSA press statement the resolution on pastoral guidelines was proposed by the Rev. Terry Lester, Sub-dean of St. Georges Cathedral who said that the parish had come to be seen as a safe space, “a sort of liberated space for gay and lesbian Christians in Cape Town. He also added that the cathedral needed guidelines to help in providing pastoral care to gay and lesbian members in faithful committed same-sex partnership.
The decision was taken to uphold the Resolution 1:10 passed at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which recognised homosexual orientation and the need for the pastoral care of homosexuals.
“We as the Anglican church of Southern Africa took it upon us to respect the decision made by the Anglican Church globally to welcome Lesbian and Gay couples as baptised members of the church”, said the Most Rev. Makgoba. “Other dioceses are already doing it, and our church is formally starting the process”, the Reverend confirmed. “The Anglican Consultative Council which represents Anglican churches around the world reaffirmed a moratorium on what it called authorization of public rites of blessing for same-sex unions”, affirmed the release.
The Reverend further added that “Pastoral, Biblical, Theological and Social guidelines will be taught to priest to help gay and lesbian through their hardship within the church.” Archbishop Makgoba was also asked to appoint a working group representing church members of various identities to engage in a process of dialogue and listening on issues of human sexuality.
Meanwhile Revd Makgoba told the Cape Times “In South Africa we have laws that approve a civil union in this context, but not in the other countries within our province. In central Africa and North Africa, both the Anglican Church and the state say ‘no’. The reason for this resolution was because we have these parishioners, and the law provides for them to be in that state, so how do we pastorally respond to that?” the Reverend questioned.
“We hope to give comfort to the people, message of hope, and listen to what God is saying then spread the word of God to others”, the Reverend concluded. The next Synod of Bishops Provincial Anglican communion meeting will be held on the 7 – 12 September 2009 in Gauteng, venue still to be confirmed.
September 02, 2009 – MedIndia
HIV Rates High Among Gays In Soweto Township
UCSF research has examined HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the township of Soweto in South Africa has found that a third of gay-identified men are infected with HIV. The study’s authors were the first to examine HIV and the community of men who have sex with men in the Soweto Township, an area on the periphery of Johannesburg reserved for black South Africans during apartheid.
The researchers found that Soweto MSM identified themselves as straight, bisexual or gay, with the highest HIV rate among gay identified men, at 33.9 percent. The researchers estimated the rate of HIV infection for bisexual MSM in Soweto to be 6.4 percent and 10 percent for straight identified MSM.
"Our findings clearly indicate that targeted prevention and treatment for men who have sex with men in townships are urgently needed. We also found that, despite South Africa’s legal advances in gay rights, stigma and de facto segregation are reflected in the disproportionate rates of HIV infection," said the study’s principal investigator, Tim Lane, PhD, MPH, assistant professor at the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies.
The findings are now available in the online edition of the journal AIDS and Behavior and are scheduled for publication in an upcoming print issue. Of the study’s 378 participants, 34.1 percent identified as gay, 30.4 percent as bisexual and 31.7 percent as straight. All but one of the participants were black South Africans and all of South Africa’s black African ethnic groups were represented in the sample.
The study showed that MSM’s sexual identities predicted their sexual behavior with other men. Gay identity was highly correlated with the exclusive practice of receptive anal intercourse and straight and bisexual self-identification was highly correlated with the exclusive practice of insertive anal intercourse with male partners.
"With the correlation of sexual identity and sexual practice, control of condom use in same-sex partnerships tends to be in the hands of bisexual and straight MSM. This finding demonstrates the pressing need to promote condom use among bisexual and straight-MSM for same-sex as well as heterosexual relationships," said Lane.
The authors also looked at other risk factors and found that HIV infection was also associated with being older than 25, lower incomes, purchasing alcohol or drugs for a male partner in exchange for sex, having receptive anal intercourse and having any unprotected anal intercourse with a man.
HIV infection was significantly less likely among men who have sex with men who were circumcised, smoked marijuana, had a regular female partner or reported unprotected vaginal intercourse with women. "The circumcision findings clearly suggest that for this population of MSM, circumcision could be protective and that MSM should not be excluded from circumcision programs," said Lane.
September 11, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Zuma’s New God Squad Wants Liberal Laws To Go
by Mandy Rossouw (Mail and Gurardian Online)
South Africa – The National Interfaith Leadership Council, formed by Rhema church leader Ray McCauley and closely associated with President Jacob Zuma, flew its conservative colours this week, saying that it wants to revisit laws legalising abortion and same-sex marriages.
Last week the council (NILC) entered the debate about the Judicial Service Commission’s decision to drop its investigation into Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. It attacked the challenge to the JSC by Freedom Under Law, chaired by former Constitutional Court judge Johann Kriegler, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s support for it, saying it could “only serve to further erode the integrity of the judiciary and undermine the confidence of the people in it”.
“For us, the ruling signified closure on this sad chapter and paved the way for the judiciary to heal and move forward,” the NILC said.
Nthabiseng Khunou, an ANC MP and member of the NILC secretariat, told the Mail & Guardian that the council would “play a role” in revisiting legislation legalising abortion and gay marriage.
Khunou, a pastor, said the laws were very unpopular in South Africa’s churches: “I know most churches want them abolished, so the reason for NILC is to give a voice to people who don’t have it.”
Khunou revealed that the NILC had recently discussed the possibility that South Africa might legalise prostitution, “saying: why has the church been so quiet about it? We must play our role here.”
Interviewed this week McCauley, the council’s national convener, denied any formal links between the organisation and the ANC.
But at least four members of the 20-odd group of religious leaders are ANC MPs, including heavyweights such as ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga and former Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool.
McCauley insisted the group was open to other political parties. But no religious leaders who support opposition parties have joined.
“The NILC does not consult with the ANC, although there are people there who are part of the ANC,” he said.
Motshekga said the ANC insisted that the party accorded the NILC no special treatment.
“We’re on record as supporting [the] council and noted what it said about Judge Hlophe, but it is not for us to approve or disapprove.”
McCauley was not speaking for the ANC, but for his own constituency.
The M&G can also reveal that the NILC uses the ANC parliamentary caucus’s communication facilities to communicate with the media. The two NILC press statements were sent from the ANC’s offices in Parliament.
Motshekga claimed to be unaware of this, while McCauley said the statements “should not have been sent from the ANC”. Khunou said ANC MPs are free to use party email facilities for any purpose they saw fit.
Other ANC sources point to the close relationship between Motshekga and McCauley through which the idea for a new religious formation was hatched.
McCauley controversially gave Zuma an exclusive platform to speak in his Johannesburg church during the ANC’s election campaign this year.
Vusi Mona, at that time the Rhema spokesperson, defended the church’s decision to invite Zuma to address the congregation, and not leaders from other parties. Mona quit Rhema shortly after the elections to join Zuma’s presidential communications team.
Self-confessed frand convict Carl Niehaus was also a Rhema spokesperson before his stint as ANC spindoctor during the election campaign.
In August the NILC met Zuma and pledged its support in helping the government deal with service delivery protests.
Other religious leaders have been caught off guard by the decision to launch the NILC. McCauley is a leader of the National Religious Leaders’ Forum (NRLF), which includes representatives of all the major faiths practised in South Africa.
He did not attend an NRLF meeting on Wednesday.
The general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Eddie Makue, said the purpose of the NILC was unclear to the religious fraternity. The SACC is set to meet NILC leaders before the end of September to clarify matters, he said. He added that the Dutch Reformed Church, formerly linked to the apartheid government, was also considering joining the NILC.
Makue said the SACC decided in 1995 to embark on “critical engagement” with the government: “We took the view that governments come and go, but the church will always remain.”
September 23, 2009 – International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Insufficient Justice in South African Lesbian Murder Case
For Immediate Release, September 23, 2009
Media Contact: Sarah Tobias, 212-430-6034
IGLHRC is disappointed at yesterday’s verdict from a court in Delmas, South Africa, convicting only one of three men on trial for the murder of South African lesbian Eudy Simelane. The body of 31-year old Simelane, a soccer player on South Africa’s national women’s team, was found in a field in KwaThema township outside Johannesburg in April 2008. She had been gang-raped and died from multiple stab wounds.
"I was appalled at the level of homophobia in the courtroom," said Monica Mbaru, IGLHRC’s Africa Program Coordinator who attended a hearing in the case in July. At one point, Judge Ratha Mokgoathleng objected to the use of the word "lesbian" in court. IGLHRC joins many South African activists in believing that homophobia may have prevented the judge from fully acknowledging the role that disdain for the victim’s sexual orientation and gender expression played as motives for the crime.
Eudy Similane is one of many victims in a series of rapes and murders targeting black lesbians in that country. South Africa’s violent crime rate has escalated starkly in recent years, with 18,148 murders and 70,514 crimes of sexual violence being reported between April 2008 and March 2009. Other black lesbian victims include Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Moosa, murdered execution style on July 7, 2007 in Soweto, and Zoliswa Nkonyane who was stoned to death in February 2006 in Cape Town. These attacks continue unabated despite the South African Constitution’s much vaunted protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
"Despite yesterday’s conviction, there is immense tragedy in this moment," said IGLHRC Executive Director Cary Johnson. "The killer showed no remorse, the police are indifferent, the courts provide no redress for lesbian victims. How can South Africa end epidemic levels of violence without effectively prosecuting crimes against its LGBT citizens?"
"As I watched the rapist confess, pain and anger filled my soul." said Victor Mukasa, IGLHRC’s Program Associate for Africa.
One man, 23 year-old Thato Mpithi, had previously confessed to murdering Simelane. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of murder, robbery and being an accomplice to rape in February 2009. Mpithi also implicated three other defendants but later refused to testify against them. As a consequence, Judge Ratha Mokgoathleng yesterday sentenced 24 year-old Themba Mvubu–who was arrested with the victim’s blood on his pants–to life imprisonment for Simelane’s murder. He acquitted the two other defendants citing insufficient evidence. Local activists are dismayed that these men were not charged, at minimum, with failing to take measures to save Similane’s life.
According to Mbaru, "The partial conviction sends a message that people can continue to rape and murder lesbians with impunity. This is the antithesis of building a culture of good governance in South Africa." Mbaru will stand in solidarity with the South African LGBT community and speak at a rally at the scene of Eudy Simelane’s murder tomorrow as part of Soweto Pride.
Find out more about IGLHRC’s work in South Africa.
October 8, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Activists Condemn Homophobic Attacks DirectedD At High Court Judge
by Simangele Mzizi (BTM Intern)
South Africa – LGBTI activists and human rights defenders have spoken against homophobic attacks by Zehir Omar, amongst others, aimed at High Court Judge Kathy Satchwell doubting her competence to be a Constitutional Court Judge because of her sexual orientation.
In his complaint Zehir Omar, lawyer for the Society for the Protection of the Constitution told the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) that “learned Judge Satchwell’s unconventional lifestyle is not something that the majority of South Africans can relate to, the majority of South Africans are God-fearing and will not be able to identify with the learned judge since there is no religion that condones homosexuality."
“Such an attack fuels bigotry and promotes unfair discrimination against gay and lesbian people, we do not support any argument that attempt to disqualify our colleagues who are gay or lesbian from holding public office, including that of being a judge in any of our courts”, reads the Public Statement on Sexual Orientation and the Constitution. The Public Statement which largely condemns Omar’s remarks outlines that, the cornerstone of our society and that of every major religion to treat every other person with human dignity.
“We note with deep regret and concern the attack made against the renowned human rights and struggle lawyer on the grounds of her sexual orientation”, the statement continues. Meanwhile the South African constitution prohibits unfair discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Judge Satchwell, was nominated for one of the four vacant positions at the Constitutional Court by the Black Sash, Wits Law Clinic, People Opposing Women Abuse, advocate Marisa Mathebula, advocate Zinhle Buthelezi and attorney Ronald Bobroff.
The public statement also appeals to Law Societies, legal practitioners and the general public to ensure that values and protections provided in the constitution are observed and “not eroded by bigotry against gay and lesbian people.” The Sunday Independent reported on 28 August 2009, that Human Rights Commission head Jody Kollapen slammed Omar for his "deeply offensive comments about Satchwell’s sexuality.” and also questioned which constitution Omar’s society was claiming to protect.
"These types of complaints undermine the very spirit of our constitution”, said Kollapen. Kollapen pointed out that “many gay and lesbian people fought in the anti-apartheid struggle, saying that these members of the gay community are no longer good enough to serve in our democratic society is a shocking double standard.”
Signatories of the joint public statement include, Phumi Mtetwa of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), Jewish OutLook, Anthony Manion, Gala Director, David Bilchitz Constitutional Lawyer, Nazir Kathrada, Ebrahim Moosa Professor of Religious Studies, Nancy Castro-Leal lesbian feminist activist, Nawaal Deane Television Producer, Faizel Randera Doctor, Adila Hassim Lawyer, Quraissha Abdool Karrim Doctor and many more.
The Mail and Guardian online also reported that Satchwell said “in the 13 years she had been a judge, nobody had ever asked for her recusal because of her private life, nor had it been argued in appeals on her work. In 2001 Judge Satchwell, who is an open lesbian won the right for her partner to enjoy the same benefits as those previously reserved for spouses of married heterosexual judges and that decision is seen as one of five key decisions that set the status of same-sex civil unions in South Africa.
"The only criteria that is constitutionally relevant in our democracy for appointment to judicial office is whether a candidate is fit and proper to hold office", reads the statement. In 2006 South Africa became the first African country to legalise same-sex marriages when the Civil Unions Bill was passed into parliament.
14 October 2009 – Behind The Mask
New Coalition To Address MSM Issues In Africa
by Simangele Mzizi (BTM Intern)
South Africa – In their effort to step up the fight against the high HIV prevalence amongst men who have sex with other men (MSM) some concerned men have formed a coalition titled African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) aiming to increase visibility of issues affecting MSM in Africa. Established in March this year, “AMSHeR was formed to strengthen the capacity of national agencies and individuals working to improve legislation and programming related to MSM’s sexual and reproductive health”, said Joel Nana, Executive Officer for AMSHeR.
The coalition consists of 15 organisations from 13 African countries working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, mainstream HIV and human rights organisations that work to address the vulnerability of MSM to HIV. “We intend to extend invitations to other countries and organisations to ensure the visibility and representativeness of all aspects of MSM and transgender lives in the continent”, Nana said.
Currently AMSHeR is hosted by OUT LGBT Well-being, a South African LGBT health organisation based in Pretoria. As a regional coalition of MSM and LGBTI led organisations, AMSHeR also aims to advocate for the elimination of discriminatory laws and policies affecting MSM. Nana pointed out that, AMSHeR’s development process has been divided into two phases and the first phase started on 1 October this year and will end on 30 March next year.
“During this period, AMSHeR intends to develop its management mechanisms, establish its administrative systems, acquire a legal identity, develop its strategic plan and strengthen its funding base for the implementation phase or second phase”, said Nana. According to a 2006-2007 HIV and AIDS report by UNAIDS to the UN General Assembly Special Session, MSM are a group that has long been overlooked with no documented evidence to confirm their existence.
Meanwhile studies show that research on MSM in Africa has been limited and largely focused on the heterosexual spread of HIV and as a result leaves MSM highly stigmatised and hard to reach, even though this population is particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. The executive committee of the coalition includes Samuel Matsikure from the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, Steave Nemande from Alternatives-Cameroun, David Kuria from the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya and Chivuli Ukwimi from Zambia.
21 October 2009 – Women’s Net
TRANS: Transgender life stories from South Africa- Book Review
About the Book
Most people have the luxury of taking gender for granted; but for more and more people whose gender either challenges them or challenges others, gender is a wellspring of thought-provoking experience. The reflections on the experience of gender contained in this book will enrich readers’ understanding and deepen their awareness of the kind of very human quest that transgender people and those who love them have been undertaking for centuries.” These words and images tell of the pain they have suffered when others have shunned or disrespected them, and of the strength they have summoned so they can endure and thrive. Their silence is broken now, and transgender people the world over are letting their voices be heard. It is not a fearful thing; it is beautiful, spiritual; it is human. Listen! Their compassion is never far below the surface. Let it in! You will not regret it.”
Jamison Green, author of Becoming a Visible Man
TRANS: Transgender life stories from South Africa takes the reader on a journey into the many worlds inhabited by transgender South Africans. The life stories recounted in this collection are both inspiring and compelling and reveal the courage and strength of each of the story tellers involved. The narratives detail the constant challenges of living in a country, that, despite its progressive Constitution, is still host to myriad prejudices and misunderstandings when it comes to trans people.
With more than twenty original voices from the trans community in South Africa, the book is a journal of shared experiences for trans people and a fascinating point of departure for interested members of the general public. The contributors who ‘transitioned, are transitioning or will transition’, have all been actively involved in the process of making the book and have a great deal to say about their personal experiences of being transgender today. Their illuminating and touching life stories are complemented by the extraordinary photographs by renowned photographer, Robert Hamblin.
Many of the stories collected here touch on the isolation that transgender people often feel in their communities. Transgender issues are a taboo subject for discussion, which are either ignored by the media, or covered in an invasive, insensitive and sensationalist way. The stories stress the need to provide accurate information, counter negative stereotypes, reduce discrimination, provide transgender people with honest representations of their lives, and offer visible, positive role models.
This book brings us all a small step closer to a future where no young transgender person in South Africa grows up in isolation and despair. Published by Fanele (an imprint of Jacana Media), Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) and Gender DynamiX, and funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies. The book will be launched in Cape Town on 20 November 2009 (International Transgender Day of Remembrance), and Johannesburg on 28 November 2009 at Constitution Hill. Details to follow.
About the Editors
Ruth Morgan is currently a freelance researcher and writer. She was the director of Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) from 2002-2008. She has a PhD in linguistic anthropology from The American University, Washington D.C. Her work has focused on collecting and analysing life stories of LGBTI and Deaf people for the past twenty years.
Charl Marais is the secretary of the Gender Dynamix Board. Charl is a trans man and a journalist.
Joy Wellbeloved, known as ‘The Cat Lady’, is employed by her four cats. Retired from the IT industry, she spends her time reading, listening to classical music, and dreaming of taking stunning wildlife photographs. Joy is a trans woman who transitioned in 1985.
About Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA)
Based at the University of the Witwatersrand, GALA believes that the advancement, development and rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people depend on an accurate record and representation of their struggles. GALA aims to mobilise memory by documenting and popularising the lives and histories of LGBTI South Africans, to support the development of pride, challenge homophobia and trans-phobia, and to help entrench the rights of LGBTI people. GALA is at the forefront of stimulating new avenues of academic enquiry into sexuality and gender identity in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent.
For more information contact Anthony Manion on +2711 717 4239 or email anthony [dot] manion [at] wits [dot] ac [dot] za.
About Gender DynamiX
Gender DynamiX is a human rights organisation promoting freedom of expression of gender identity, focusing on transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming identities. Gender DynamiX is currently the only registered organisation in Africa which specifically advocates for transgender individuals, and aims to increase awareness and visibility of transgenderism in South Africa.
For more information call Liesl Theron on +2721 633 5287 or email
December 6, 2009 – Sky News
Lesbians face ‘correction’ rape in South Africa
by Lisa Holland, in South Africa
Lesbians in South Africa are being dragged off the street and raped to "correct" them, it has been claimed. Sky News has found evidence of widespread abuse against the lesbian community – resulting in a new trend of so-called "corrective rape".
In the the township of Khayelitsha, on the outskirts of Cape Town, Sky spoke to a group of women who said they live in fear of their lives. All of them said they know someone who has been violently dragged off the streets and raped because they had come out as a lesbian.