Constitution Hill, one of South Africa’s most important heritage sites, last Friday October 28 paid homage to the LGBTI community with an event themed ‘Queer Love Is a Human Right.’
The event, which focused on the rights of LGBTI people as enshrined in the constitution, provided LGBTI people the opportunity to voice their frustrations against homophobia and discrimination experienced by gays, lesbians, and other minority groups in the country despite the fact that the Constitution was the world’s first to include sexual orientation in its protections.
Nkunzi Nkabinde, who works at Constitution Hill, welcomed the three guest speakers. These were Phindi Malaza from the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), Kwezilomso Mbandazayo, Project Officer for the One in Nine Campaign and Mbuyiselo Botha the Sonke Gender Justice Network Media and Government Liaison officer.
Their discourse with the audience involved topics such as hate crimes such as corrective rape and whether homosexuality is un-African. On the issue of corrective rape there was discussion around whether the term often used by perpetrators and the media was indeed the right terminology.
In her contribution to the discussion, Phindi Malaza from FEW took the audience through the terms “corrective rape” and “hate crime” and the meaning they convey.
She said, “We need to look at the words such as ‘corrective rape’, ‘hate crime’ and think of how to define them for ourselves. We need to stop talking about corrective rape, it does not speak about the violence we suffer, and it is about other people pushing their own agenda.”
For her part, Kwezilomso Mbandazayo, from the One in Nine Campaign, a member-based movement that offers support to survivor of sexual violence said, “We must put knowledge at the centre of our work and we welcome spaces and opportunities like this to open the dialogue.”
Mbandazayo also commented on the words used to define the violence against LGBTI people and explained that “The way we name things is a social construct and it has to be relevant. Whenever someone speaks it is always in relation with someone else. The way we name thing can either include or exclude.”
On the issue of whether homosexuality is African or not she said, “Who gets to say what is African and what is not? Who is the custodian of African culture? No one get to say who you are or are not.”
Mbandazayo finished her contribution by saying “We must try and encourage a thinking society since. Every tool is a weapon if you know how to hold it.”
Mbuyiselo Botha highlighted the negative effects of patriarchy in South Africa and challenged the young LGBTI people in the audience to change it for the better of future generations.