OUT LGBT Well-being and MambaOnline publish a monthly overview of reported LGBTIQ+ rights violations in South Africa, including hate speech. We also look at the status of cases making their way through the criminal justice system. Here is our summary for August 2023.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) took a strong stance against Dawood Lagardien, the owner of the Gqeberha shop that “banned” LGBTQ+ individuals. In response to Lagardien’s offensive sign proclaiming “LGBTQ not welcome at La Gardi – Save our Children,” the SAHRC opened an anti-discrimination case against him in the Equality Court in August. The SAHRC accused Lagardien of refusing to remove the offensive sign and also facilitating a WhatsApp group promoting hate speech and violence against LGBTQ+ individuals. The commission called for the court to declare Lagardien’s actions as hate speech, unfair discrimination, and harassment. They also demanded a public apology from Lagardien and a payment of R500,000 in damages to an equality-promoting NGO. Additionally, the SAHRC urged the court to refer the case to the National Prosecuting Authority for a criminal investigation into Lagardien’s conduct.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s participation in a conference co-sponsored by the American LGBTIQ+ hate group Family Watch International sparked concern among human rights advocates. The African Bar Association’s annual conference, held with the University of South Africa, faced criticism due to its association with Family Watch International, labelled an extremist hate group. The group has promoted anti-LGBTIQ+ and anti-choice beliefs, including endorsing the criminalisation of homosexuality and advocating for so-called “conversion therapy.” Concerns grew as Dr Seyoum Antonios, a Family Watch International representative, expressed reservations about Western influences on African countries during the conference’s opening ceremony. Human rights groups like the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the International Commission of Jurists called on the South African authorities to uphold the nation’s principles of equality and dignity, urging leaders to denounce organisations opposing human rights and non-discrimination.
For the first time since the dawn of democratic South Africa, the Eastern Cape Legislature met with queer activists from across the province when it hosted its first LGBTQIA+ Dialogue on 17 August 2023. This historic moment became a turning point for the Eastern Cape which despite it being the birthplace of globally recognised liberators, is also regarded as the most homophobic province in South Africa. With the Eastern Cape Legislature being the provincial law-making body, resolutions to address discrimination and hate crimes from this dialogue will be tabled for different provincial government departments to implement. Eyes are now firmly fixed on the Eastern Cape to implement appropriate interventions and for other provinces to follow suit.
An incident at a Cape Town clothing store shed light on the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ families in everyday situations. A gay couple, Jade Hearne and Garth Shaun Kayster, took their two children shopping at a women’s clothing store. When they attempted to assist their eight-year-old daughter in the fitting room, they were stopped and told that only “the mother” could enter. After an embarrassing standoff, one of the men was allowed in by the store manager, who later apologised. The incident left their daughter visibly shaken and upset. The experience highlights the struggles faced by same-sex parent families and underscores the need for greater awareness and training among staff to prevent such situations. Foschini, the store in question, eventually issued an apology and committed to diversity and inclusion training for its team members.
South Africa’s proposed new Marriage Bill, aimed at establishing gender-neutral and equal marriage rights, faced criticism from some religious leaders. The bill seeks to unify the country’s three distinct marriage laws into a single, equal law for all citizens, defining marriage as a union between gender-neutral partners and prohibiting child marriages. Speaking at a consultative dialogue in Johannesburg, Minister Aaron Motsoaledi emphasised the need for equality and dignity in all marriages. Critics like Ismail Muhammad, however, argued that the bill is secular and marginalises religious groups. Pastor Errol Naidoo also condemned the bill, claiming that it will cause the end of “monogamous heterosexual marriage in South Africa. He also falsely claimed it would be unique in abandoning traditional male and female terms, despite several countries having embraced gender-neutral marriage laws.
August concluded with another distressing anti-LGBTIQ+ sign appearing in Gqeberha – this time at mall car wash. The poster, professionally designed, read, “Stop this evil. No lesbians. No gays. No bisexuals. No transgenders. No queers. Anti-LGBTQ. Save our children.” The incident echoes a similar one at La Gardi store in July. However, unlike the La Gardi case, both the car wash owner and mall management distanced themselves from this sign, claiming it was placed without their permission. They removed it, apologised for the “unpleasant shopping experience,” and expressed their commitment to a safe, inclusive environment. Activists and LGBTIQ+ organisations have raised concerns about the sign inciting violence and called for swift action by the SA Human Rights Commission.
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