Feb 7, 2013
andreas

Out-Right Namibia (ORN) – Press Release

6. February Press Statement

Out-Right Namibia (ORN) calls on Mr. Hamutenya and The Villager to respect people’s right to privacy and dignity. It is with great concern that Out-Right Namibia (ORN) has taken note of a statement by Wendelinus Hamutenya, entitled To be or not to be gay, published by The Villager on 04 February 2013.

As an NGO representing and lobbying for the human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Namibians, ORN is concerned that Mr. Hamutenya wants to lead the debate on sexual minorities by naming those “who try to hide what is obvious”.
Although he was stripped off his title Mr. Gay Namibia 2011, Mr. Hamutenya appears to feel that his crowing as Mr. Gay Namibia for 2011/2012 also gives him the responsibility to undertake this action. ORN would have wholeheartedly agreed with and supported Mr. Hamutenya if he had chosen to lead the debate on sexual minorities in Namibia during his reign. However, we would not have supported Mr. Hamutenya if he chose to “openly debate the issue of gays and lesbians without fear, favour or retribution”, in the manner he chooses to do so now.

ORN is of the opinion that we cannot have a constructive debate by naming and shaming those who choose not to declare their sexual orientation publicly for fear or stigma and discrimination. The reality is that we live in a society where alternative sexual orientations or gender identities are frowned upon. We still have Namibians who are rejected, isolated and victimised by their family and community if they disclose, or are forced out of the closet by circumstance or the disclosure of their sexual orientation by another.

We must admit that there is increasing tolerance of sexual minorities in Namibia among communities, the media, and in particular by political  leaders who have not made homophobic statements in recent years.

We however acknowledge that there is still a long way to go before we can achieve the full realization and recognition of the rights of LGBTI people, and we fear that tactics such as those applied by Mr. Hamutenya negatively affect the process, and perpetuates the negative stereotypes attached to LGBTI people.

Furthermore, ORN is highly disturbed by Mr. Hamutenya’s declaration that he’s been supplying “boys” to these well-known individuals for sex at a price. We are shocked and outraged by this and call upon him to immediately cease such actions. Mr. Hamutenya also states that he does not mean to “hurt anyone or break families” by disclosing a list of well-known personalities “who are involved in gay activities clandestinely”, but that is exactly what will happen if he discloses the identities of these individuals. Not only will families be destroyed, these individualized will be victimised at work and by their communities. There may be so much pressure that some may attempt suicide to escape the public’s wrath, and this is not what ORN would want for anyone. ORN thus hereby calls upon Mr. Hamutenya and The Villager to cease any action regarding
the  disclosure of LGBTI Namibians who choose to keep their sexual orientation private. We appeal to you to respect the privacy and dignity of these individuals and allow them to deal with the challenges of being an LGBTI Namibian privately. If these individuals lived and worked in a society that accepted them for who they are, they would not have engaged in marriages and relationships to satisfy an intolerant society’s demands. Let us thus work towards achieving a society that accepts everyone as equal, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
A society within which people can engage in relationship with people they are truly attracted to, and not people society expects them to be attracted to.

As an NGO responsible for addressing the marginalization of LGBTI Namibians, we recommit ourselves to ensuring their equality, dignity and safety.

For more information: Linda RM Baumann- Director

Tel: +264 61 245556 / mobile: +264 81252 8259

 

Feb 3, 2013
andreas

Ghana appoints Pro-Gay Minister Despite Fierce Opposition

GHANA, Feb 2 – DESPITE A grueling vetting process and grilling on her stand on gay rights, lawyer Nana Oye Lithur has been appointed as the new Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection.

Ms Oye’s nomination by President John Mahama led to public discussions on her past remarks that seemed to indicate she was pro-gay. Her confirmation was contained in
a recommendation by the Parliament’s Appointments Committee released Friday.

Her vetting, among other ministerial nominees, was beset with controversy after some members of the clergy resisted her nomination and approval largely because of her liberal stance on homosexuality.

A group calling itself ‘Concerned Clergy Association of Ghana’ mid last month opposed Ms Oye’s appointment as Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection saying she was a ‘proponent and supporter of gay rights’. Presbyterian Moderator Prof Emmanuel Martey had described her as a lady with little integrity and protested her nomination and approval. ‘To appoint Ms Oye to this sensitive position as a Gender, Children, and Social Protection Minister is detrimental to our social cultural norms and religious beliefs,’ group spokesman Bishop Prince Benny Wood is quoted in various outlets. ‘As Ghanaians, we think that the President must take a second look at that kind of position that is being given to Ms Oye because we think that her views as far as homosexuality is concerned is too much to the extreme,’ he added.

At her vetting, Ms Oye reiterated she had never called for the legalization of homosexuality in the country but remarked that every Ghanaian has equal rights.’Not even the President of Ghana can deny anybody’s human rights irrespective of the person’s sexual orientation, ethnic group, gender and what have you,’ Ms Oye is quoted in various sources.’These are guaranteed in our constitution and everybody in Ghana has an obligation to respect that constitution.’

Article 17(1) of the 1992 Constitution states, “All persons shall be equal before the law (2) A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status”. Ms Oye is a well known human rights activist and lawyer having served in various human rights bodies in different capacities. After her approval was made public, a statement from ‘Concerned Clergy Association of Ghana’ read “They have betrayed the people of Ghana including themselves… because what they did in Parliament today is a bit of a drama,” said the spokesperson for the group, Bishop Prince Benny Wood.

He urged President Mahama to issue a statement “to make Ghanaians have a rest in their minds. What is the position of government or Ms Oye herself because she does much with the human rights aspect? …What is the government’s position on the civil rights of homosexuality act itself and not the people?” In related news, a law lecturer has announced he will soon launch an anti gay lobby group called Forum for True Social Protection which will be a watchdog over any institution that wants to push the homosexual agenda.

Law lecturer at the Ghana School of Law, Moses Foh-Amoaning, is reported to have taken a swipe at the Majority side in Parliament for approving Ms Oye.

Source: Identity Kenya – The Kenya Sexual and Gender Minorities News Service

Feb 2, 2013
andreas

How Poverty Further Oppresses The LGBT Community

How Poverty Further Oppresses The LGBT Community

Posted by on Thursday, June 7th, 2012

 

Of all the hot-button political issues in the media right now, perhaps LGBT rights are the most prevalent. Yesterday, former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was sentenced to thirty days in prison for a bias crime after he used a webcam to secretly record a sexual encounter between his roommate Tyler Clementi and another man, driving Clementi to suicide. Last week, President Barack Obama went on record in support of marriage equality (and, in the process, won the support one of Mitt Romney’s more well-known donors and inspired the NAACP to call same-sex marriage a civil right). But something that often gets left out of the conversation is how central economic justice is to the LGBT movement.

Dharun Ravi at his sentencing

Image from: blog.zap2it.com

 

Economic justice is defined by the Center for Economic and Social Justice as follows:

Economic justice, which touches the individual person as well as the social order, encompasses the moral principles which guide us in designing our economic institutions. These institutions determine how each person earns a living, enters into contracts, exchanges goods and services with others and otherwise produces an independent material foundation for his or her economic sustenance. The ultimate purpose of economic justice is to free each person to engage creatively in the unlimited work beyond economics, that of the mind and the spirit.

President Barack Obama on the cover of Newsweek

Image From: thepoliticalcarnival.net

Essentially, in a world with true economic justice, no person would have to worry about being able to make a living regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately, we do not live in a world where that is universally true. In an article on Huffington Post, Chi Mgbako of Fordham Law School shared stories of economic exclusion. “Aziza”, a transgender woman originally from Algeria, found it nearly impossible to find work as a nurse in Beirut despite her degree and extensive work background. When she did find work, she was forced to work long shifts with no days off, because her employer knew how limited her options were for other employment. “Gloria” was driven out of the Lebanese military by sexual harassment due to her status as a transgender woman. “Ramona”, also in Beirut, had her salary lowered by her boss when she began transitioning from man to woman.

This kind of treatment is not limited geographically to Beirut. Indeed, at a recent Association for Women’s Rights in Development international forum, advocates from all over the world emphasized that LGBT people in their countries experience unemployment, underemployment, and economic discrimination at a disproportionate rate. All concurred that there needs to be more research into the extent of poverty experienced by LGBT individuals in order to construct appropriate interventions and begin to make a change.

Women attending a workshop in Bekkerdal

Image From: calbia-foundation.org

While there is a dearth of data and resources on the international governmental level, there are organizations out there that exist to help bridge the economic gap in the LGBT community. The U.S.-based Point Foundation provides financial support and mentoring to students who have been marginalized due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The Point Foundation scholarships provide a vast array of scholarships (including one named for Tyler Clementi), that provide LGBT youths without family or community resources the opportunity to continue their education. Perhaps more importantly, they pair each student with a prominent and caring mentor from the LGBT community. Not only do these mentors serve as role models and provide emotional support and guidance, they can assist with post-educational resources, including job opportunities. The Point Foundation is not currently seeking volunteers, but they are always accepting donations at a variety of levels to further their mission.

On a more international plane, the Coalition for Advancement of Lesbian Business in Africa (or, CALBiA Foundation) economically empowers lesbians and transgender people in Africa by providing needed start-up capital for small and medium businesses. Like the Point Foundation, CALBiA provides mentoring and sponsorship for entrepreneurs, in this case to help create a sustainable economy in Africa. CALBiA believes that lesbian women and transgender people can achieve equality through financial independence, and they take a holistic approach toward achieving this goal. Everyone involved in CALBiA is a volunteer. If you would like to help further their cause, you can become a member here, and determine your own level of involvement. Other organizations exist in Africa that help women, but no one else there is helping the LGBT community at the level of CALBiA.

Jan 26, 2013
andreas

David Kato remembered: A hero then, and a hero now

“David Kato was born to the Kisule clan in its ancestral village of Nakawala, Namataba, Mukono District, in Uganda. The younger of twins, he was educated at King’s College Budo and Kyambogo University and taught at various schools including the Nile Vocational Institute in Njeru, where he became aware of his sexual orientation and was subsequently dismissed without any benefits in 1991.

Later, He came out to his family members and then left to teach for a few years in Johannesburg, South Africa, during its transition from apartheid to multiracial democracy, becoming influenced by the end of the apartheid-era ban on sodomy and the growth of equal rights for LGBTI South Africans.

David Kato

He returned to Uganda in 1998 and decided to come out in public through a press conference; he was arrested and held in police custody for a week. He continued to maintain contact with pro-LGBT activists outside Uganda, and served as one of the catalysts for the movement of LGBTI pride that developed in Uganda.

Kato was among the 100 people whose names and photographs were published in October 2010 by Giles Muhame in the Ugandan tabloid newspaper Rolling Stone in an article which not only outed him and the others, but also alluded to their execution through an the caption “HANG THEM,” which appeared next to a picture of a noose.

Together with others outed LGBTI Ugandans such as Kasha Jaqueline Nabagesera and Pepe Julian Onziema (SMUG), Kato successfully sued the newspaper to force it to stop publishing the names and pictures of people it believed to be gay or lesbian.

The court ordered the newspaper to pay Kato and the other two plaintiffs $600 USD.

David Kato’s story as an activist is elucidated in the must watch documentary film, “Call Me Kuchu,” and if you never had the opportunity to know or meet David, after watching the film, you will feel as if he is your brother too.

The film received acclaim around the world and played to an historic 6 minute standing ovation in the Castro, San Francisco. In the midst of making the film, David Kato was murdered, sending friends, his dear family and dedicated comrades around the world into deep shock and grief.

Kato had spoken of an increase in threats and harassment since the court victory against Muhame, and it is clear that his sexual orientation and his activism were the motive for his murder. Kato’s murderer was caught and tried and is now serving a 30 year prison sentence.

Even though the local Ugandan media and prosecution tried to spin the motive as if to seem David had made advances on his attacker, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary and it is highly likely that the murderer was set up to commit what was indeed an assassination of a great leader, who barely had time to realize his full potential.

Kato advocated for the freedom of LGBTI Ugandans and for their right to their natural born sexual orientation in a heightened climate of hostility and homophobia, occasioned by extreme misunderstanding through the violent and harsh delivery of hyperbole and rhetoric, on Ugandan soil, by extremist American Christian Evangelicals, such as Scott Lively and Lou Engle, exporting hate in the name of their version of Christianity.

Today on this second anniversary of the death of David Kato, his friends, comrades, human rights defenders, and LGBTI people around the world are expressing their love, comforting each other and extolling the virtues of this great hero, with comments, memories and prayer for the peace of his dearly departed soul.

“Today we remember a fallen comrade who did everything in his power to stand for the truth. As we mourn his passing we also celebrate a true human rights defender, strong at heart and a great example to many young LGBTI persons. He used to say “Until it knocks on your door”; now that his passing knocked on our doors,we know that this fight is more than ever not going to be easy, but it keeps us going strong knowing that many are willing to die for it.”

And this from another heroic comrade and beloved friend of David, Viktor Mukasa:

“David was a glue for activists for effective activism. He acknowledged the role of every individual in the struggle, which is a rare thing in our struggles today. He went to great lengths to save his community. He cared about people so much that he used his personal resources to save others. He is irreplaceable.”

Frank Mugishu of SMUG noted in a statement remembering David Kato:

“Today we remember a chilling day for all LGBTI people in Uganda and around the world. The evening that followed was one of fear, apprehension, utter disbelief, horror, and uncertainty. The manner in which David was killed speaks of the sheer hate that can exist in human beings who have not opened up their hearts to love and reason, the martyrdom and the blood that David shed planted the seed of love that we all need to share, LGBTI to straight, straight to LGBTI, one to another.”

This year the coalition group of Ugandan human rights defenders (SMUG) is suing American Evangelical Pastor Scott Lively in the U.S.A. under the Alien Tort Act, for the acts and deeds in Uganda that sparked the wave of persecution against the Ugandan LGBTI community, noting his complicity in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, also known as The Kill the Gays Bill.

Through this extraordinary fight and act of bravery by SMUG and its individual members, it is clear that the spirit of David Kato is alive and well and breathing victory into the hearts and souls of his comrades.”

Article of Melanie Nathan in LGBTQNation
http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2013/01/david-kato-remembered-a-hero-then-and-a-hero-now/

Dec 29, 2012
andreas

Still time to stop Uganda’s horrific anti-gay law

In 2013 CALBiA Foundation is expanding activities to Uganda in order to help LGBT community there in common efforts for equality and human rights for LGBT people in this country.
Please sign the below petition to stop anti-gay law in Uganda.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/uganda_stop_gay_death_law/?fAJhsdb&pv=15

 

Nov 1, 2012
andreas

There is no place for homophobia in the church, anywhere in the world

Source: Guardian by Tim Steven, 

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu looks on during his autobiographical book launch in Cape Town

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said that persecuting LGBT people was the ultimate blasphemy. Photograph: Reuters

In 1967 it was the then archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, who spoke in the House of Lords to support the decriminalisation of homosexuality in this country, thus making a clear distinction in British law between a moral and a criminal issue.

No such distinction exists in many parts of the world and, as a result, people are suffering horrendous abuse and even death for being who they are and loving who they love. Many of us have met people who have shared the most disturbing personal stories, including a very small number who have been granted asylum on grounds of sexual orientation in this country.

Others in this debate have rehearsed the ways in which laws criminalising same-sex sexual activity between adults have been repeatedly found in international law to violate fundamental human rights, and this debate serves also to highlight effectively the way in which criminalisation gives rise to persecution. I want, however, to concentrate on the way in which discriminatory interference in the private sexual conduct of consenting adults is an affront to the fundamental Christian values of human dignity, tolerance and equality.

It is of course no secret, as others have made clear, that on the ethics of homosexual practice the churches in general and the Anglican communion bishops in particular are deeply divided, but that cannot and must not be any basis for equivocating on the central issue of equality before the law of all human beings whether heterosexual or homosexual. Further, many of us who are bishops in this country value and treasure our links with particular dioceses around the Anglican communion. We respect and appreciate the different, and often sharply divided, theological approaches which lead to different stances on the ethical issues. But, as the Lambeth conference of 1998 made clear, there is not and cannot be any place for homophobia in the church, and all are to be welcomed regardless of sexual orientation.

Few have spoken on this issue as unequivocally as archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said in 2010 at a United Nations high-level panel:

“All over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are persecuted. They face violence, torture and criminal sanctions because of how they live and who they love. We make them doubt that they too are children of God – and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy.”

Indeed, in recent years, successive statements from the leaders of major Christian denominations in the west have made similar points, including perhaps most consistently, those from the Society of Friends, which has stated:

“We affirm the love of God for all people, whatever their sexual orientation, and our conviction that sexuality is an important part of human beings as created by God, so that to reject people on the grounds of their sexual behaviour is a denial of God’s creation.”

Many people the world over are now asking the churches to put their position beyond all doubt, by saying simply and clearly that criminalisation is wrong. I will put my position beyond all doubt by stating it in as clear terms as I can. If criminalisation leads, as it evidently does, to gay people concealing their own identity, that must be wrong; if criminalisation leads to many living in fear, that must be wrong; if criminalisation leads to the prospect of persecution, arrest, detention and death, that must be wrong; and if criminalisation means that LGBT people dare not turn to the state when facing hate crimes and violence, that must be wrong too.

It is within the adult lifetime of most of us in this House that the law was changed in this country to decriminalise homosexual acts. However, for our children’s generation, such a state of affairs must feel like ancient history – as appropriate to the moral climate of today’s society in this country as the burning of witches. We must all urgently pursue this journey to a completely new climate in those many countries of the world where same-sex relations are criminal offences.

• This is an edited version of a speech delivered in the House of Lords debate on homosexuality in the developing world

http://www.guardian.co.uk

 

Aug 5, 2012
andreas

Hilary Clinton hails gay rights activists in wary Uganda

By Andrew Quinn

KAMPALA | Fri Aug 3, 2012 3:30pm EDT

(Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday praised activists who opposed a tough draft law in Uganda targeting gays and lesbians, calling them an inspiration for others struggling to secure equal rights around the world.

Clinton presented a coalition of Ugandan rights groups with the State Department’s 2011 Human Rights Defender Award, a signal to African and Islamic nations that Washington will not backtrack in its fight against the legal and political persecution of homosexuals.

 

 

Picture: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) meets with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at the State House in Kampala August 3, 2012. REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool

“It is critical for all Ugandans – the government and citizens alike – to speak out against discrimination, harassment, and intimidation of anyone. That’s true no matter where they come from, what they believe, or whom they love,” Clinton said.

Clinton said she raised the issue in talks on Friday with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose government has been accused of allowing political and religious leaders to drum up anti-gay feeling in the deeply conservative East African nation.

“You are a model for others and an inspiration for the world,” Clinton said to representatives of the group, formed in 2009 to combat draft legislation which proposed the death penalty for anyone convicted of “aggravated homosexuality”.

The bill, which spurred a global outcry, stalled in parliament but has been reintroduced in a watered down form by a member of Museveni’s party.

The new version dropped the death sentence, but would still outlaw the “promotion” of gay rights and punish anyone who “funds, sponsors or abets homosexuality”.

Clinton’s strong expression of support for Uganda’s beleaguered gay community came as she continued a seven-nation trip across Africa.

She began Friday with a visit to South Sudan, Africa’s newest nation, where she urged the new government in Juba to make a deal with their old rulers in Khartoum to resolve a dispute over oil revenues which has driven both countries to economic crisis.

On Saturday, she will continue on to Kenya, before heading south to Malawi and South Africa.

COULD DRONES HUNT KONY?

In Uganda, Clinton visited a military base where Ugandan and U.S. soldiers showed her the U.S.-made “drone” aircraft now patrolling the skies over Somalia, where an African Union force is seeking to crush al Shabaab Islamist insurgents.

Uganda, a strong U.S. security partner, has contributed the bulk of the Somalia force and Clinton said she foresaw a day when drones might help the United States and Uganda with another of their joint military efforts – the hunt for renegade Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.

“Now we have to figure out how to look through thick vegetation to find Joseph Kony,” Clinton said, after inspecting a drone, a small unmanned aircraft no more than a yard long and mounted with cameras.

The United States last year dispatched about 100 military advisers to help Uganda and other central African nations track down Kony, whose Lord’s Resistance Army has been charged with repeated atrocities against civilians.

But Kony is at large in a vast and often heavily-forested part of Africa, making finding him difficult.

U.S. officials stressed that Clinton’s visit to Uganda was aimed at thanking it for its strong security assistance in Somalia and elsewhere.

But the visit highlighted lingering tensions between Washington and Museveni, accused by critics of increasingly authoritarian policies and of bending the constitution to prolong his rule.

Before her meeting with the Ugandan leader, Clinton indicated that she would gently press him to think about a day when he might leave the political stage.

“It is important for leaders to make judgments about how they can best support the institutionalization of democracy,” Clinton told reporters. “It’s not about strong men, it’s about strong institutions.”

(Writing by Andrew Quinn and James Macharia; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Aug 3, 2012
andreas

Forum for Empowerment of Women – Congratulations to 10th anniversary

Forum for the Empowerment of Women, is celebrating its tenth anniversary of serving the Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender women in communities of South Africa. The lgbti community and allies will come together on August 4, 2012 to recognize and celebrate our accomplishments/ existence.

We have been fortunate during the ten years to have navigated the non-profit sectors, when many similar organizations have not been as fortunate.  Our anniversary approaches when our services are needed more than ever, as crimes against the Lesbian community have increased.

FEW, wishes to extend our gratitude of appreciation to our founders, Zanele Muholi, Donna Smith and so many others.  Special thanks are extended to our funders and donors that have been instrumental in our ten years of success.

The Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) is a national, Non-Profit organization based in Johannesburg, South Africa, which aims to articulate, advance, and protect the rights of Black Lesbians, Bisexual and Transgender women. Our work, energy and resources are focused and deeply rooted in, informed and shaped by our constituency.

Our Mission is the empowerment of women by focusing on developing a Black Lesbian identifies and raises awareness of Black Lesbian women and youth rights.
Our Vision is to champion the rights of Black Lesbian women in a transformed society where all the rights enshrined in the South African Constitution are realized for the benefit of all.

As an activist and feminist organization, we support and build the ability of LBT women to live and work as human rights defenders.  We view ourselves as an integral part of the LGBTI sector, the feminist, women’s rights and human rights sectors.

We are involved in a number of projects that address the issues of the LGBTI community which expresses publicly and celebrates our identities through activism and the resilience as Lesbian women. Our activism over the last ten years has raised the consciousness regarding the violations against women particularly hate crimes targeted at Lesbians.

FEW aims to make schools a safe environment for all learners especially the LBGTI learners and build Lesbian activists and organizations that create a safe space for Lesbian women in the Townships.

FEW contributes toward empowering Lesbian women, to address the gender-based violence targeted at lesbian women through the use of media to raise awareness to society about the life experiences of the LBT women in South Africa.  FEW continues to  work with Community Based Organizations in local Townships to address issues that affect Lesbians

All Friends of FEW are invited to attend our 10th year Anniversary Celebration
Date:    Saturday, August 4, 2012
Time:     AGM 1:00pm – 4:00pm   – The Reception 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Venue: Constitution Hill Atrium

The AGM is aimed at updating FEW constituency and partners on the work of the organization in the past year and provide opportunity for input to the future direction of the organization.

The Evening Event:  “Celebrating FEW’s 10th Anniversary”   Tie Gala Dinner & Reception                                                                                 Time: 6:00pm – until late

After Party Celebration Open Closet @ Roxy’s Melville

Please RSVP to Dikeledi Sibanda/Phindi Malaza
011 403 1906/7 (Tel)
011 403 1035  (Fax)
Project1@few.org.za/ phindim@few.org.za

Jul 27, 2012
andreas

Turning the gaze on gay rights – Melanie Judge

By Melanie Judge, a member of CALBiA Advisory Board
Lesbian and gay rights activist Melanie Judge responds to the M&G’s June 28 article “Gentle man’s brutal murder turns spotlight on intolerance”.
Victoria John’s report (Gentle man’s brutal murder turns spotlight on intolerance, June 28 2012) on the murder of Thapelo Makhutle’s made for shocking reading. The full page spread gave a detailed and gruesome account of his killing and brought to mind that old media adage – if it bleeds it leads. John’s report commences with the statement that “most people in the Kuruman area believe it is ungodly and unAfrican to be gay”. On reading the article it is apparent that this bold statement, posing as fact, is drawn solely from the account of an individual, contemplating what one might find “if one walked around the streets of Kuruman”. Basic journalistic ethics requires that such a sweeping assertion be properly substantiated. If not, such a statement risks reproducing the normalisation of the very homophobic discourses it ostensibly ‘reports’ to exist. The media has a particular responsibility to resist this naturalisation of the injured/murdered LGBTI ‘victim’ that everyone loves to hate.

In the midst of murder, local contestations around “Africanness”, sexuality and gender are very much alive. Recent resistance to the Traditional Courts Bill and to homophobia by traditional leaders are cases in point. LGBTI people are increasingly claiming political and social space, and women are challenging cultural systems that undermine their rights. This is partly why violence based on sexuality and gender occurs.

John’s report, in which Thapelo’s body becomes central to the replay of a horror, details the violent minutiae of his murder. In reports on homophobic attacks, it seems all too easy the way in which the black (because they mostly are) and blue bodies of LGBTI people are represented, particularly female bodies. Widening the lens – such that the horror is contextualised – will work against the impulse for homophobic violence and its ‘necessary victims’ to become normalised and the stuff of its making to therefore be obscured.

Slavoj Zizek’s caution, in his typology of violence, asks, “is there not something suspicious, indeed symptomatic, about this focus on subjective violence – that violence which is enacted by social agents, evil individuals, disciplined repressive apparatuses, fanatical crowds? Doesn’t it desperately try to distract our attention from the true locus of trouble, by obliterating from view other forms of violence and thus actively participating in them?”

This calls attention to the symbolic and material aspects of violence that are part of what we see as the ‘normal’ state of affairs – the “most people” status quo. Unlike the bodies they claim, systems of violence, such as heteronormativity, sexism, racism and impoverishment, are seldom laid bare.

Heteronormativity is a social system that privileges heterosexuality at the expense of sexualities and gender identities that don’t conform to it. As a function of power it operates through, amongst other means, violence as a policing and correcting force. From this perspective, violence against LGBTI people is partly a response to those who, in different ways, pose a threat to heteronormative privilege and power.

For example, lesbians and gay men challenge what it is to be masculine and feminine and that only opposite sexes attract. Transgender and intersex people disrupt the idea that there is a fixed relationship between biological sex and gender. The mere existence of queer people subverts gender binaries and the myths around its ‘naturalness’.

All movements for social change, the anti-apartheid struggle included, are grounded in the pain, rage and resistance of the injured. A growing movement of LGBTI people is increasingly asserting that their bodies matter and have the value to be mourned. These are political acts of staking a claim to, as philosopher Judith Butler frames it, “what counts as a livable life and a grievable death”. The full picture then, is not one of injurability alone. It is also about democracy at work, the expansion of citizenship and voices for social justice making themselves heard. These pressures on systems of dominance have the potential to generate new and hopefully more equitable, forms of power and politics.

Violence tells us something about who we are – both the injured and the privileged. This invites us to question: How are gender hierarchies sustained through violence? How do sexism, racism and class inequalities enable homophobic violence? Whose interests are served by peddling prejudice and what is its political function? How does homophobia relate to current re-assertions of colonial and apartheid identities? How do we all – not just queers – hold leaders to account when they promote hatred in the name of culture?

These are some of the issues that violence based on sex, gender and sexuality compels us to consider, lest we remain forever transfixed by the horror of bleeding bodies, while safely ensconced in our own participation in the very exercise of power that makes such violence possible.

Melanie Judge is an LGBTI activist.

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