It brought together officials (including South Africa’s Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Advocate Michael Masutha), human rights groups, international and regional bodies, civil society and academics from around the continent.
Phalakatshela, who manages the Love Not Hate national hate crimes campaign, described the seminar “as a great platform for dialogue.”
He noted, however, that it could have had a bigger impact if most of the invited government officials had attended.
The seminar focused primarily on implementing Resolution 275 which was adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2014.
The resolution condemns violence and other human rights violations against the LGBTI community as well as attacks by states against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“This resolution is exactly what the African LGBTI community needs, however it has not been implemented or used in almost all African countries. Most people had never even heard of this resolution prior to the seminar,” commented Phalakatshela.
“It remains shocking to hear horror stories of violence and what LGBTI people are going through in most of the African countries,” he said.
While homosexuality is criminalised in around 36 countries in Africa, Phalakatshela noted that decriminalising same-sex relations is not necessarily a priority at this point and that anti-LGBTI stigma and discrimination should be tackled first.
“Even with progressive and democratic laws, sometimes stigma and discrimination can hinder tolerance and acceptance. South Africa has an inclusive and diverse constitution, however there are still incidents of hate crimes and discrimination against LGBTI people in the country,” he said.
“It is nevertheless evident that things are better if you have laws that can protect you, instead of when you have to fight both the perpetrators and the government, like in most African countries,” Phalakatshela added.
Love Not Hate is a collaboration between six South African civil society organisations in Gauteng, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal.
The programme works with government and other partners to fight the scourge of LGBTI hate crimes. This includes empowering the LGBTI community, assisting LGBTI persons to report incidents of violence and to navigate the justice system, as well as tracking hate crimes.