Report by Lerato Dumse
“Consolidating and celebrating the gains of 20 years of a democratic government in partnership with the LGBTI community in Gauteng,” was the theme used by the sector parliament hosted by the Gauteng Province Legislature (GPL).
Health, Safety and Economy are the three sectors discussed, debated and dissected by the estimated 50 members of the LGBTI community, on November 26 in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni. With the event taking place a day after the start of the South African campaign, 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children abuse.
Deputy chairperson of committees, Doreen Senokoanyane, declared the council chambers as a precinct of the GPL in terms of rule 59 of the legislature.
While Chairperson of committees Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko delivered an address on behalf of speaker of the GPL, Ntombi Mekgwe.
“LGBTI rights are human rights,” said Nomantu highlighting the president’s speech from the previous day, in Reiger Park, Ekurhuleni, where he spoke out against hate crimes experienced by members of the LGBTI community, at the launch of the 16 days campaign.
She added that they woke up to exciting news about Lekgoa Motleleng’s 30-year prison sentence, which also coincided with the start of the No Violence Campaign the previous day. Motleleng pleaded guilty to murdering and raping 26-year-old Duduzile Zozo in June 2013. “Unless something is done, people will continue to die brutally,” she continued.
Nomantu spoke about the LGBTI community being victims of discriminatory laws during the apartheid era, and conceded that this minority group still faced persistent discrimination, to this day. She alluded to “absence of research” when it comes to matters regarding the LGBTI community as part of the problem, but highlighted that SA has one of “the most inclusive equality clause in the world.”
The programme then moved to the crux of the matter, and up first was the debate on health. This sector led by their chairperson Dlozi Mthethwa, introduced their matter by acknowledging that religion, specifically Christianity, played a major role in forming negative perceptions about LGBTI people.
Their debate touched on policies and guidelines such as the national quality assurance program, which has been adopted by the Gauteng Department of Health, which includes staff attitudes as part of their five priority areas.
Medical staff’s intolerance was cited as a contributing factor that discourages minority groups such as LGBTI from seeking healthcare services.
The group explained that some of the results of LGBTI people not seeking healthcare include the high prevalence of cervical and prostate cancer among this group, as well as mental illnesses such as depression, which sometimes leads to suicide and substance abuse. The health commission identified sensitization and educating of health professionals, as part of their recommendations.
Next up was the economic commission, chaired by Tshegofatso Mphahlele. They referred to the economic disparities in South Africa based on different racial lines, drawing clear distinction between the economic participation of a white gay man based in Cape Town and a black lesbian woman in Soweto.
“This talks to two very serious issues, the different distribution of wealth according to race/class and the marginalisation of black LGBTI people in the community,” read the economic report.
The commission said these problems were fuelled by homophobic parents who might punish their children by not providing them with adequate education, as well as the negative attitudes by people meant to teach LGBTI individuals.
The group also cast a light on the issue of unemployment, and challenges facing visible members of the LGBTI community such as femme gay man, butch lesbians and transgender individuals who face discrimination during the hiring process, especially when interviewed by homophobic individuals.
They referred to the official tourism website of SA, which offers a guide to LGBTI tourists, as one of the opportunities which can be used to create employment for LGBTI people. While major cities such as Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban were seen as contributing to the economy through their LGBTI nightlife, together with the pride season, which also contribute economically. The group also suggested that incentives be offered to companies that employ a certain percentage of LGBTI people.
Government was given high marks for labour laws and the Employment Equity Act, which seeks to fight against the discrimination of workers based on their sexual orientation, amongst other things. However the commission noted that many employees are not aware of their rights, including LGBTI workers.
Their list of recommendations included improving the education system when dealing with LGBTI citizens. For the business sector it was suggested that members of the LGBTI community need to be informed about available opportunities such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and proposed that a database be created which will contain the names of LGBTI owned businesses, and encouraged LGBTI employees who are in the closet to come out, to assist with the mapping of their economic participation.
Last but not least came the safety commission, with their chairperson Shaun Malatjie opening the debate. This commission informed everyone at the gathering that Section 9 of the South African Constitution states, “Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms.”
Victimisation, murder, violation of rights, stigmatisation, and proper identity documentation for transgender people were presented in bullet form as the safety issues facing this marginalised group. While challenges that perpetuate these attitudes were attributed to bad treatment from SA Police, religious beliefs, hate speech as well as victimisation by family members.
LGBTI help desks at police stations, as well counseling and safe houses for victims of rape and violence, were the recommendations presented.
This commission took things up a notch and provided “internal issues, challenges and recommendations” for members of the LGBTI community.
Their advise to the group was to learn about the constitution, take individual safety precautions and responsibility, respect one another, and to never stop telling their own stories.
Before providing contact details for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) 011 220 1500 or email Complaints.Gauteng@ipid.gov.za to report police not doing their job properly.