These South African LGBTI NGOs, part of a collective campaign called the Love not Hate Programme, have been engaging with the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) around the growing crisis in sexual and gender rights on the continent.

South Africa publicly committed to hosting a Regional Seminar on Ending Violence based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression in Africa, as far back as a year ago, and DIRCO has repeatedly confirmed their intention to host the Regional Seminar, also in a meeting with the Love not Hate Programme partners in February this year.

To date there has, however, been no progress in setting a date nor any other concrete measures towards ensuring that the Regional Seminar takes place.

The Regional Seminar is part of a United Nations Human Rights Commission process on engaging different regions to formulate solutions to ending violence against LGBTI persons. Africa remains the only region that has not fulfilled this commitment and DIRCO has not responded to repeated appeals from civil society to share its plans for ensuring it takes place with urgency.

South Africa is well positioned to facilitate dialogue on gender and sexuality between different African states, civil society organisations and International Human Rights Institutions.

Ingrid Lynch, from Love not Hate Programme partner organisation Triangle Project, stated “the failure of DIRCO to follow through on their commitment is deeply concerning considering the increasing threats to sexual and gender rights on the continent, along with continued violence and other violations against LGBTI persons”.

This Regional Seminar is a critical step to move forward on developing African solutions to rising levels of violence and other violations – not only against sexual and gender minorities but also in relation to women’s rights and safety more broadly.

Nonhlanhla Mkhize from Love not Hate Programme partner, the Durban Lesbian and Gay Community and Health Centre, reiterated, “South African civil society remains committed to supporting DIRCO in engaging other African states on this issue. DIRCO has shown exceptional leadership in international efforts to address violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity and domestically the Department of Justice-led task team is making strides in addressing LGBTI-related violence. Should DIRCO default from their commitment to host this Regional Seminar it will be detrimental to these efforts”.

The Love not Hate Programme partners are joining other South African civil society organisations and activists in calling for DIRCO to honour their commitment to host the Regional Seminar on Ending Violence based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

A petition requesting DIRCO to be held accountable for delivering on their stated commitment can be found here.