SANAC civil society denounces Homophobia and Trans-phobia.

Jul 3, 2013 | Press Release

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Today (Friday, 17th May) marks the International Day against Homophobia and Trans-phobia (IDAHOT) and the Civil Society Forum

of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) joins the global community to honour this important day. In solidarity with communities around the world, we speak out against the perpetration of human rights violations on the grounds of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. In South Africa, and many other parts of the world, this is a day to intensify our call on governments to address inequities in civil liberties, to protect sexual minority rights, and to support human rights defenders.

The injustices of homophobia and trans-phobia have far-reaching consequences. In a world grappling with the challenge of the AIDS epidemic, the link between homophobia, trans-phobia, stigma, and HIV and AIDS is inextricable. In South Africa, where lesbians, gay men, men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgendered people are often stigmatised and heavily discriminated against, it has been difficult to fully implement and integrate HIV/AIDS, and other health programmes on a more meaningful national level. Smaller NGOs are working well to develop improved health models and programmes for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) communities, but do not have the capacity or resources needed to upscale efforts to ensure appropriate and competent services.

Homophobic and trans-phobic violence and discrimination aimed at the LGBTI communities has profoundly influenced the on-going rise in the HIV, TB and STI epidemics. Their vulnerability often translates into a fear of accessing health care. They loathe disclosing their true identity to health care workers for fear of being perceived as being abnormal. The judgemental attitudes of the health system often results in people being shunned, mocked or even refused care and treatment. When, and if, they are addressed, the service is often inadequate and leaves people with emotional and mental scars. This discriminatory environment in our public health system has made this population highly vulnerable to HIV and STI infection, and many other social ills.

Today, through our SANAC sector representation of People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV) and the larger LGBTI community, we emphasise the need for the implementation of the South African National Strategic Plan (NSP) 2012-2016 to recognise the vulnerabilities of all members of society.

In addition, the SANAC Civil Society Forum notes that the current rise in hate crimes, including the systematic gruesome murders, brutal rapes and often fatal attacks on lesbian women, gay men and transgender men and women demonstrates the existence of a strong and persistent pattern of homophobia and trans-phobia in South Africa.

“We are concerned about this trend of homophobic attacks. We highlight that the social and structural barriers which this sector experience should be addressed. It remains vital that by helping these groups we confront and, hopefully, eradicate homophobia and trans-phobia in the country. While we continue to advocate for anti-hate crime legislation to be enacted in South Africa, we believe that society as a whole needs to play a role in ensuring that the Constitutional rights of all South African citizens and those within its borders are protected, promoted and fulfilled by the government; and that all citizens and residents ensure that the LGBTI community, particularly people living with HIV, have access to their rights and enjoy them”, says chairperson of the Civil Society Forum of SANAC, Steve Letsike.

Letsike added that “there is only one common requirement for all to attain fundamental human rights. That requirement is to be a human being, and we all deserve respect”.

SANAC Chief Executive Officer, Dr Fareed Abdullah, said “the Constitution of South Africa prohibits the discrimination of anyone based on their sexual orientation”.

Abdulla lamented the recent trend in Johannesburg of murdering gay men as well as the so-called corrective rape of lesbian women. He called on law enforcement authorities to “honour the Constitution and do whatever is necessary to apprehend and bring to justice perpetrators of hate crimes”.

The SANAC Civil Society Forum demands the following:

  • That government and all other stakeholders condemn the recent murders of LGBTI people in South Africa
  • That government recognises the rigid links between homophobia, trans-phobia and HIV
  • That measures be in place to end hate-based homophobic violence
  • That public education and sensitisation on these issues be accelerated
  • That measures be implemented to ensure that all health facilities are competent to deal with MSM/LGBTI health related issues

We further commit our cooperation and willingness to assist and collaborate in the implementation of these measures, thereof, to transform the environment that perpetually endangers the lives of so many MSM and LGBTI people.

For enquiries contact the chairperson of the SANAC Civil Society Forum, Mmapaseka Letsike.
Cell: 073 435 6501

Notes about IDAHOT
The International Day against Homophobia and Trans-phobia (IDAHOT) was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the issues of legal discrimination, homophobia and trans-phobia.
The 17th of May was specifically chosen to commemorate the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990. IDAHOT is observed in more than 100 countries.

About the SANAC Civil Society Forum
The Forum represents the collective voice of civil society organisations and seeks to influence policy, programmes and decision-making processes in SANAC. Our membership includes 17 SANAC Sectors. These are the Children’s, Disabled people, Faith-based organisations, Health professionals, Higher Education, Labour, Law and Human Rights, LGBTI, Men, Women, Non-governmental organisations and community based organisations , Traditional Leaders, Traditional Health Practitioners, Organisation representing people living with HIV and AIDS, Sex workers, Sports and entertainment and Youth Sectors.