Sunday, November 21, 2010

SA Government Betrays Human Rights Principles Set In The SA Constitution - Again

South Africa's government has once again shamed our nation before the free world by adding its vote to the voices of member nations of the UN who are oppressors of the human rights of the global Pink Community, in order to deny UN protection of the human rights of GLBTI individuals from hate crime specifically directed at LGBTI people.

In many countries around the world the Pink Community faces persecution and death at the hands of people who commit violent acts against us out of hatred simply for what and who we are. Examples of this slow genocide of our people are provided by countries such as Iran, Jamaica and Uganda, to say nothing of the countries where just being LGB or T is illegal and carries a stiff jail penalty for having theses immutable characteristics. Uganda wishes to include the death penalty for being LGBT, while Iran's government has been murdering LGBT people for decades, or forcing them to have gender reassignment as an alternative. Jamaica is known as the most homophobic place on Earth, with regular reports of lynchings of people suspected of being gay. Despite this, many countries (and South Africa) are still openly trading with these countries - and no punitive action is being taken against them, either by individual states, or the UN.

This week, the United Nations voted on a resolution calling on countries to protect the lives of all people and to investigate extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions that are motivated by prejudice and discrimination. The motion was altered, as a result of this vote, to remove the term "sexual orientation" from the list of factors identifying the victims of such acts, meaning that murder and persecution of people on the basis of sexual orientation will not be included within its scope. South Africa was reportedly one of the countries which voted against the inclusion of our community in this effort, along with 79 others.

It is shocking, unacceptable, and offensive to a human rights sensibility that the government of a country which has a Constitution that upholds principles of equality for all people - including us - continues to fail miserably in honoring those principles of human rights and freedom from hatred and persecution enshrined within it.

It is also reprehensible that South Africa has failed - once again - to speak out and take action against these human rights abusers and their atrocities, and in fact continues to conduct trade with such countries, despite their appalling human rights records. Much is made about the morality of blood-diamonds, but nothing is ever done about the immorality of state-sponsored persecution and murder of people based on who they are, or who they love.

Past excuses that the affairs of other countries are "not our business" are made suspect when we see how active South African representatives are as mediators in the affairs of other countries such as Zimbabwe and Uganda - who both have appalling records as far as the treatment of the Pink Community is concerned, and yet these pressing matters never seem to be addressed by them. It is disappointing indeed when we as South Africans see how little our dignity is worth, by the level of involvement and support our government provides to countries which act against us out of ignorance and religious fundamentalist hatred and cruelty.

South Africa's government has repeatedly demonstrated an appalling lack of support for the rights and well being of the Pink Community in its voting record in the UN. As a shocking example, in 2008 South Africa declined to sign the UN Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality and made the excuse that it did so on the grounds of "having principles". Three years later we still haven't been told what those "principles" are - but are as a community finding it easier and easier to guess. In the past year alone, homophobic newspaper columnist Jon Qwelane (who wrote an article in July 2008 inciting hatred and violence towards gay people and women and has so far evaded court action) was appointed High Commissioner to Uganda - the country that wants to make homosexuality punishable by death.

I also find it supremely ironic that these disappointing incidents always seem to occur around a day marking the remembrance of a minority being targeted on the basis of their inherent immutable traits - in this case, Transgender Day Of Remembrance, which was on Saturday. One has to wonder if we are expected to find some kind of message in that "coincidence"?

In South Africa there is still a high degree of homophobic and transphobic activity, and many people face justifiable fears of persecution on a daily basis. The still-present so-called "corrective rape" and murder of black lesbians and victimization of gay and trans people is but one facet of this issue, which appears to be going largely ignored by the government. It is clear from this and previous failures to live up to the responsibility it shoulders as an elected government, that it does not seem to feel that the Pink Community in South Africa deserves any such protection or acknowledgment of our equality, dignity or human rights.

I am again shamed by this latest outrage of the South African government's decision to stand with human rights abusers, murderers and despotic countries who conduct merciless actions against people on the basis of ignorance, cruelty and religious fundamentalist immorality - simply for being who they are.

I agree wholeheartedly with internationally renowned human rights activist Peter Tatchell's statement that South Africa should hang its head in shame and that this country's government cannot be considered friendly to the Pink Community, or our human rights. In fact, added to the recent assault on freedom of speech, freedom of expression and Media freedom, we feel this latest embarrassing and shameful incident demonstrates hostility to equality, freedom, democracy and the human rights of all people.

I express my thanks and gratitude to South Africa's main Opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, for showing support and for speaking out against this shameful trend which gives us pause regarding the future of human rights for the Pink Community and the nation in general. Especially when we listen to the things being said by Rev Jesse Jackson this past weekend about a "United States of Africa" - when he echoes what has been touted by people like Muammar al-Gaddafi, the dictator of Libya who speaks before the UN, SADC and AU not on the basis of democracy, but oppression.

Lastly - for all the states of Africa to work together in a union, with a common legal system, economy and society - when most African states have little or no human rights values, and who at best do not respect the rights of human beings to love who they will - I have to ask whose values and rights would be sacrificed in order to make this ill-conceived union work?

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