2013 Dec. 17: LGBTI agenda reflected at a Human Rights lawyers conference


by Jeremiah Sepotokele


2013 Oct. 4:  Wits University, Johannesburg. South Africa.

The Wits Student Law Journal for Southern Africa hosted a conference “Incendo on the
4th of October 2013 at the Chalsty Centre at the Wits School of Law, West Campus.
The Journal is a legal publication housed at the School of Law, Wits University which is managed by law students (including myself) and funded by OSISA (Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa).
It aims at providing a platform for academicians, legal practitioners and students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) on legal discourse around subjects affecting Southern Africa.
The conference was a day long, and slotted in three sessions on different topics.

The first session was on the “Land Reform Policy and Politics” by Professor Vinodh Jaichand
(a land reform expert) who presented an elaborate comparative assessment on land reform policy in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Prof Vinodh questioned the feature of expropriation with compensation in the South African context and maintained that this transaction approach seems completely insensible of the past injustices done.
“So now there has to be a transaction for the claiming of land which they took without any form of compensation.”
This session was a necessary dialogue considering the issue of land, post-colonial Southern Africa and the socio-economic landscape at regional level which still remains a difficult space in our democracies.

The second session was on the socio-legal status of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and intersex (LGBTI) communities in the Southern African region.
The session really did attract a lot of conversation and interest. It was also an activist platform where a lot of educating and learning took place. The session was conducted by way of a panel discussion, and on the panel was Professor Marius Pieterse (a law professor publishing on sexual minorities) and Nomancotsho Pakade from Gay Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA).
Justice Edwin Cameron from the Constitutional Court had excused himself from the panel due to unforeseen circumstances.

The two panellists who identify as bisexual and lesbian respectively looked at international law instruments, campaign building and general violence against the LGBTI communities in the region. There was nonetheless a slight deviation from the topic of the session and a lot of attendants were interested in the personal and emotional lives of the LGBTI communities.
The panellists used their own life stories to further engage with the larger issues affecting sexual minorities in the region.
The engagement was extremely educational that one of the attendants confessed:
“I will never be the same after this conference, my own internal prejudices were challenged and I now fully understand the LGBTI struggle.”
So the importance of dialogue cannot be undermined as it does a lot of political work in addressing some of the evil attitudes confronted by these communities.

After a delightful lunch the last segment of the conference was presented by Advocate Justin Shimbo, a practising lawyer from Tanzania.
The Tanzanian lawyer presented his paper on cyber-law and gave us a comparative analysis on cyber-space regulation in South Africa and Tanzania.
He pointed out the lack of a fit regulatory framework within the Tanzanian jurisdiction and commended the South African legal framework for making considerations on such a need.

The conference did provide a platform for discourse beyond the recognizable limits of the actual publication.
The comparative dialogue did allow for proper reflection and exploration of viable solutions from different contexts in which we exist.
Furthermore, I think that these platforms need to be created and shared with ordinary regional citizens as education is the greatest investment that can help us unite as Africans, especially those residing in remote areas like our South African townships where service provision is still sparse.

  • Jeremiah Sepotokele is Editorial Associate: Local Content and Conference Co-ordinator for the Wits Student Law Journal for SADC.
    Sepotokele is also an avid  researcher and contributor for Inkanyiso media.

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This entry was posted in Collaborations, Democracy, Details, Education, Facilitation, Language, Lawyers, Lessons learnt, LGBT rights activist, LGBTIs in Africa, Life, Love, Media works, Memory, Penetrating mainstream spaces, Power of the Voice, Prejudice, Presentations, Privilege, Professionals, Public spaces, Publications, Queer Education in SA, Queer visibility, Questioning, Questions & Answers, Readings, Records and histories, Relationships, Reports, Sexual minorities, Society, Socio-economic, South African struggle, South African townships, Where & Who is Justice?, Writing is a Right, Youth voices and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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