Monday, November 14, 2016

Betrayal, by South Africa


Its a very strong word. Yet, if that is what is occuring, then there must be no compromise in stating it.

This beautiful nation, embracing the reality of all its people after the nightmare of apartheid adopted a radically progressive constitution. For the first time on the African continent, an African country's LGBT people had a constitution that specifically and pointedly protected them against discrimination. Here I borrow from that unique document.

All over the continent, LGBT Africans live under frank, open, government sponsored stigma and discrimination. The fact that South Africa adopted this constitution with these specific provisions was applauded by those of us who come from north of the Limpopo. Simply put, one of the things that is constantly thrown into our faces is that we gay Africans are 'un-African', a denial of our being, an erasure of our very identity as members of clan and tribe...., simply because we love differently.

That at least one African nation embraced, celebrated and protected her LGBT citizens so strongly and so specifically was a breath of fresh air for those of us gay Africans from other nations. It was, and remains a strong affirmation. Simply put, because South Africans are Africans, we were all proud on her behalf.

So, whence the betrayal?

South Africa is a sleeping giant on the continent. In matters of leadership, we Africans have expected a lot, I must admit. And, because the new nations leaders had to learn literally on the job, it has been a difficult thing.

We gay Africans lauded when the Mbeki government legislated gay marriage. It was amazingly heartening. Couldnt believe it had happened, myself. Had to get multiple points of proof....., as if the dream of an African country were it was simply legal to get married to my same sex partner was a mirage...., soon to disappear in days tough light. The Wikipedia article on the evolution of this is edifying. Actually, there was lots of opposition, demonstrations, and the ANC MPs had to have a party line vote.

The betrayal is fully described in Daily Maverick by V. Nepaul. In short
The first time any United Nations body approved a resolution affirming the rights of LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) people was on June 17, 2011. The resolution sought that the United Nations launch a study into “discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity”. It meant that there would be an official United Nations reference point for what constituted rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Who proposed the study? – South Africa.
Wow, that was SA boldly standing out as a leader.

A leader leads. Even when the ideals championed are unpopular. Even when the going is rough, especially on an issue as specific as the human rights of a group as stigmatised as homosexual Africans.

So, after boldly championing this, what happened?

This year, first of all, SA abstained from the vote of setting up the Special commissioner. And, it is reported, when the 'African Group' of which SA is part sent a strongly condemnatory letter, it is said that SA signed onto it. Or, didnt they?

One spokesperson says they walked out.
said Clayson Monyela, Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman, SA representatives walked out of a meeting when the calls were made."What Lawyers for Human Rights says is simply not true. Our ambassador walked out of the meeting because the calls are not something that we could associate ourselves with."
Did South Africa sign on, or not to the 'African Group' statement? A statement that is so against the spirit of the constitution it states
disturbed at the attempt to focus on certain persons on the grounds of their sexual interests and behaviours, while ignoring that intolerance and discrimination regrettably exist in various parts of the world, be it on the basis of colour, race, sex or religion, to mention only a few
......The group is therefore concerned that non-internationally agreed notions such as sexual orientation and gender identity are given attention, to the detriment of issues of paramount importance such as the right to development and the racism agenda. 
 In my humble opinion, no SA rep would sign onto such a group without going against the constitutions spirit of non-discrimination against a group specifically protected in the constitution.

And, if they just 'walked out', they lost the opportunity to choose leadership in this very difficult position.

Yeah, I know, South Africans are Africans, and they owe the rest of Africa a lot. But, they also owe the continent the leadership championed by the likes of Tata Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for values that are so clearly enshrined in the constitution of the country. Literally..., we Africans look to you, SA, to lead. And lead in difficult positions like this. It is a moral responsibility which the passed crown and memory of Madiba demands from his resting place. When you don't, we feel the betrayal in our marrow, to the depths of our bones.

I feel it in the statement released by the SA LGBT activist groups- 
The open letter, written by groups including the Triangle Project, Gender Dynamix, and Sonke Gender Justice, calls on the South African government, specifically DIRCO, to condemn and dissociate itself from the position of the African Group and to vote against the proposed resolution.
Support for the 'African Group' statement, overt or covert, from representatives of the South African nation is a repudiation of the rights of their LGBT fellow citizens back in South Africa. It is an abdication of the position and responsibility of leadership that is South Africa's heritage, liking it or not.

And, yes, I feel it deeply, in my bones.

As the experience of apartheid left in the still bleeding wounds and scars of this nation, stigma and discrimination need to be fought, boldly, whether it is convenient, or not. Else you fail to understand the lessons taught by that extremely traumatic time of our lives.

Stand up and lead, South Africa.

Else, this is nothing but BETRAYAL. 

Of your ideals, the ideals of your great nation.

A betrayal of your very selves. And nothing is as tragic as that.


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