Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Change Is As Change Does

The DA is virtually the only party in this country which includes the rights of people on the basis of gender, identity, gender identity and sexual orientation in its policies and manifestos. 

To this day, I feel that there is no viable alternative to the DA in securing the promises in the Constitution of South Africa, which pertain to freedom, equality and equal opportunity for all.

However, the recent events surrounding the matter of the Traditional Leader's Bill, and the careless statement made by Mr de Freitas as a representative of the DA - whether he himself is gay or not, have cast a different light on the Democratic Alliance and its stance on civil rights and protection issues.

For the past nearly two decades, the DA has been promising change in South Africa, and yes, we can see the change in the Western Cape, and I sincerely hope that change comes to the rest of this country in due course through coming elections.

I''m starting to form an opinion, however, that more things may change than we realize, should the DA eventually come to power in South Africa. They may (like the ANC) fall into the same trap (if they haven't done so already) of thinking that just because they fought for freedom, equality and democracy, and now represent the majority vote in the country's electorate, they deserve everyone's obedient silence or unquestioning support, and their policies could shift focus away from winning and appeasing friends to gain political power - to abandoning portions of the populace to whom they made promises, in order to focus on entrenching themseves in their new position.

Falling back onto a position of "those who criticize us, simply do not understand how democracy works" is a concerning attitude, which is both inaccurate and patronizing.

Despite the occasional admonishment in a speech, or a letter in the press by DA representatives, what exactly has the official Opposition party done regaring the issues concerning the Pink Community in terms of human rights? Have they taken the ruling party to task in Parliament over issues such as the homophobic, racist and sexist journalist, Jon Qwelane, being appointed by the President as High Commissioner to Uganda, or the government's apparent protection of this man, which has prevented him from appearing in the Equality Court since 2008? Have they pressured the government in Parliament on the issue of signing various human rights declarations in the UN, which the government declined to ratify? Have they pressured the government to sever ties with and cease supporting countries around the world which have appalling human rights records (such as Uganda and Zimbabwe) and in places where people are persecuted and oppressed on the grounds of their sexual orientation, or gender? Have they directly addressed - or pressed government where it fails to address other issues concerning issues which affect our community? Have they ever DONE more than just put in an appearance at a Pride, or make a speech, or make promises to our community?

I am not looking for fault with the party itself, or its proclaimed protective stance towards our rights - however, I am suggesting that we have seen the pudding, now it is time to start proving it as well.

Yes, the DA is an inclusive party, it has many gay representatives in its membership. Yes, there are even some brave souls who are open about being gay as MP's or other public representatives in the party. However, it is one thing to brag that a party is full of gay people - it is something else altogether for them to ACT like it.

 Loderunner” by Christina Engela
Ever since he’d decided to quit being a P.I. and to try his hand at running cargo instead, things had just blown up in Timaset Skooch’s face one day at a time. (Florpavian Flamebirds tended to do that occasionally.) Between the labor disputes and accidental deaths among the crew, (who believed in settling disputes internally) he was beginning to get a headache worse than the ones he got from getting kicked in the head. Things had just gone pear shaped again and now he found himself in the middle of a kind of cat and mouse game with some cloaks and daggers thrown in for good measure.

Returning from an evening spent visiting relatives in Mars City he didn’t know he had, he arrived at the local space terminal to find his new acquisition stolen. A few minutes later, the crew of his slightly run down loderunner “Celeste“, returned from the nearby pub, blind drunk, puzzled and now unemployed as well.

He was sure it had something to do with the 10 000,00 credits he was offered  to transport two passengers to an asteroid in the rings of Jupiter, (as soon as possible, no questions asked), by a middle-man with no neck and a tendency to smile a lot.

And to crown everything, his girlfriend was mad at him too (just a little).  He was beginning to regret ever winning that card game…

Buy: Paperback / Ebook

Published: May 26, 2016
Pages: 268
Binding: Perfect-bound Paperback
Dimensions (inches): 4.25″ wide x 6.88″ tall (pocketbook)

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Over the past few weeks, human rights activists within the Pink Community have staged protests about the Constitutional Review Committee entertaining a debate on the removal of protective clauses within the Constitution in order to appease traditional leaders. The fact that traditional leaders object to these protections in iteself warrants their protection by such a constitutionally mandated body. We have realized full well that such a change is currently unlikely, and accepted statements from Mr Gay South Africa, Lance Weyer, and some others, who said that this measure would never pass. 

The issue has been the DISCUSSION of the removal of our rights from the Constitution - which in iself presents a threat and an insult to our group - in as much as any such discussions around the removal of civil or human rights protections of any other often persecuted social group would be. 

The protests achieved their aim - which was to show that the Pink Community does not just gather for Prides and parties, Mr de Freitas - but also to show that we are prepared to stand up and fight for something which IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR!

However, I feel that further statements by numerous vitriolic individuals in question, are uncalled for. They should know very well, as politicians, and as gay people themselves, that there are numerous issues warranting our continued pressure, protest and action. 

Criticism by groups such as ours need not be met with patronizing snarky comments like those in Mr de Freitas's letter. The presentation of his "full" letter is irrelevant to this matter - the one sent to the press, on an official DA letterhead, and representing the views of the party - is the one that matters.

Criticizing a community for speaking out in defense of their rights and peacefully demonstrating their objections - especially when representatives of a perceived champion of democracy deny that there are problems faced by a community which faces daily prejudice and persecution - and dismiss it as inconsequential or even trivial, and paint it as "not understanding the democratic process" - is nothing less than hypocrisy in itself. Such things as demonstrating objection, voicing protest and campaigning for action or change are the very basis of a democratic society. 

The DA needs to be careful here. In terms of public perception within the Pink Community, they are poised to cross the Rubicon, becoming perceived not as pro-rights liberals, but as reactionaries - and the gay contingent within it, as the internally homophobic "log-cabin Republicans" and lap-dogs of the "old-boys network" which runs the Republican Party.

They need to realize that the Pink Community are not the uneducated followers of other parties - that we are discerning and that election promises of open opportunity values need to be kept, and that unlike the supporters of other parties, we are keeping score, and have been all along. 

We appreciate it when politicians and political parties support our rights, we appreciate being included in the body of representatives of a party, and we appreciate it when these parties speak out in defense of our human and civil rights - but we expect both the party and its representatives - and OUR representatives within that party to honor their promises, and their espoused principles - and to not be too afraid or too ashamed of who they are or where they come from, to stand up for these principles. 

Forsaking  us when our rights or dignity are threatened, or turning on us when we address one of their representatives who goes against the ethos of their own party manifesto, is no way to win - or keep, friends. 

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