Eleven take Dutch Reformed Church to court over same-sex unions

Eleven members of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), also known as the NG Kerk, are taking legal action to set aside the shocking decision by the church to reverse its acceptance of same-sex unions.

In November 2016, the DRC’s extraordinary general assembly dismayed the LGBTI community when it voted to recall the landmark 2015 decision to allow individual church councils to recognise and bless same-sex relationships, and to drop the prohibition on non-celibate gay clergy.

The general assembly also reconfirmed that marriage is only possible between a man and woman and proclaimed that any sexual relationship outside of this form of marriage “does not meet Christian guidelines”.

The reversal was described at the time as a disappointing and regressive betrayal that kowtowed to the most conservative and homophobic elements of the DRC who were outraged by the progressive 2015 decision.

In the run-up to the extraordinary synod, the eleven members repeatedly, and supported by legal opinions, warned that the church’s handling of the appeals against the 2015 decision were in contravention of its own policies.

According to Rev Laurie Gaum, one of the applicants, the actions of the extraordinary assembly are also unconstitutional because they “discriminate against the human dignity of LGBTI people”. This is one of the grounds for the motion to set aside the decision.

“Through our court action and in public interest we want to assist the church to attain legal clarity and in the process get rid of a history of discrimination,” said Gaum. “In this way the Dutch Reformed Church can answer to a meaningful calling in South Africa and on our continent.”

For logistical reasons, four individuals – Rev Laurie Gaum, Judith Kotzé, Michelle Boonzaaier and Dr Frits Gaum – will act on behalf of the eleven applicants. The others behind the action are: Rev Pieter Oberholzer, Hennie Pienaar, Lulani Vermeulen, Adv Leon Wessels, Dr Murray Coetzee, Prof Hendrik Bosman, Dr Chris Jones and Dr Nadia Marais.

They will be represented by Adv Jeremy Gauntlett SC QC, Frank Pelser and Mirinda Gaum through the law firm Baker & McKenzie.


Health-e launches IZWI LAMI anti-rape campaign

Health-e’s anti-rape campaign invites rape survivors to share their stories, contact counselling services and campaign for packages of care.

Before rape becomes the new normal, before rape becomes forever attached to the word “culture”, and before we think changing a Facebook profile pic is a substitute for real action, South Africans have to turn the tide on rape, gender-based violence and sexual abuse.

Health-e News is launching our Izwi Lami – My Voice Campaign that will run until Women’s Month in August.

The aim of our media drive is to bring into sharper focus the crisis destroying countless lives every day and leaving in its wake a legacy of fear, trauma, violence, shame and anger.

For things to change, it needs the attention of each South African and the courage of all of us  to take personal responsibility for shifting a situation that’s been allowed to go wrong in too many ways.

At the heart of the Izwi Lami campaign is an effort to collect the testimonies of survivors, put them in touch with counselling services, and campaign for a standard package of healthcare for all survivors to be available at all 24-hour health facilities.

This will be done through our free SMS-driven survey and questionnaire platform.

By texting the keyword  ‘endrape’ to 38006 rape survivors can take part in a survey  about their personal experience,  get information about counselling services in their provinces and add their support for the demand for the package of care.

The survey allows survivors to record personal stories anonymously, giving as much or as little information they’re comfortable to share. For many women this may be the first time they are able to share their experiences of trauma.

Although responses are automated, the testimonies will be monitored closely by Health-e’s staff. Those survivors willing to share their stories publicly (either with or without their names) will have excerpts of their accounts shared on Health-e’s website and via social media pages.

The intention of this is to show other survivors they are not alone, and to create a conversation on social media around how pervasive rape is in the country.  The short survey of eleven questions will include information gathering around the incident or incidents of rape or sexual abuse and a record of the treatment, care and justice for victims. This information can help to identify gaps in care and treatment and allow activists, funders and policy makers to channel resources and efforts where they’re needed most.

Izwi Lami is a collaborative campaign, with Health-e partnering with Rape Crisis, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Sonke Gender Justice, LifeLine, mainstream media outlets and local personalities to highlight the issues that beg for us not to look away.

Each SMS conversation ends with a link to a petition designed by calling for a package of care (counselling, ARVs, antibiotics and a morning-after pill) to be provided to every rape survivor.

At the end of Women’s Month, the SMS tool can be handed over to any other body or organisations interested in using it for continued information gathering and counseling direction for survivors of rape and sexual abuse victims in the country.

Through the Izwi Lami campaign Health-e will also focus on telling the stories that give broader perspective on why rape, gender-based violence and abuse continues to be society’s collective shame and stigma. Through unpacking the many dimensions of a complex societal scourge we hope to bring it out from the shadows, and to create deeper awareness that can interrupt the cycle of rape and abuse.

Join us on this journey because our rape and abuse crisis leaves no South African unaffected. Izwi Lami is a call to be heard, it’s also a call to listen and call to act.


The reproductive justice movement

If the reproductive justice movement has one message, it’s this: reproductive rights alone aren’t enough.

The term “reproductive justice” was coined in 1994 by a group of black women activists to emphasize the necessity of placing reproductive rights and health in a broader social justice framework. What that means in practice is that we can’t divorce the battle for abortion rights and reproductive health care from struggles against racism, economic inequality, homophobia, and transphobia—because these things also affect whether and how people are able to make decisions about their bodies, their families, and their lives.

It’s not enough to ensure that contraception and abortion are legal if many people are still unable to access them because of poverty and marginalization. Reproductive justice also means that those who choose to parent should be able to raise their children in safe and healthy surroundings, free from violence, discrimination, and environmental pollution.

As Naa Hammond of Groundswell Fund notes in the above video, “historically, this is a movement that has been deeply intersectional”—one that centers the experience and insights of women of color, low-income women, and LGBTQ people.

Reproductive justice advocates in the United States are fighting to ensure that people have access to abortion, contraception, comprehensive sex education, and prenatal and childbirth care. But they’re also asking why parents in places like Flint, Michigan, must raise children without clean water because of environmental racism, challenging flawed immigration and criminal justice systems that tear families apart, and working to end violence against trans and gender-nonconforming people.

This focus on building connections across issues and between communities is one reason the reproductive justice movement offers an important model for progressive organizing—and has valuable lessons to teach those of us in philanthropy about how to support transformative change.

Watch the video here:


Rape care centres closing? We can stop this

*Warning, talk of rape and violence* If you were raped, would you be able to access adequate post-rape care? For too many the answer is a shocking no, like 41-year old Bianca Jonkers* who was gang raped by seven men in Diepsloot earlier this year. The next morning, she had to travel about 20kms to Randburg to access post rape care such as counselling, the morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy, antibiotics to prevent infection, an HIV test and a month’s dosage of antiretrovirals if she was HIV negative to reduce chances of contracting HIV because the health facility in her area did not offer these services.[1]. Butwe can change this.

With the increase in reports of gender based violence, we have an opportunity now to let those entrusted with ensuring services for rape victims know we won’t stop until they begin to take a lead in providing effective post-rape services. Please click here to support this campaign:

Many other women are at risk especially those in rural and peri-urban areas where if you do not have money to travel to a nearest facility, you put your life at risk of contracting HIV and other unwanted illnesses related to rape. Compounding the situation further is that international funding for Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) is drying up [2]. These centres are “one-stop” facilities for rape survivors, providing services such as counselling, medical care and the collection of evidence used to prosecute alleged rapists.

For Bianca and every other rape survivor who need to access these services, it is critical that we stand firmly behind the call for a well-funded inter-departmental intervention that will work at not only funding these centres so that they continue offering these services but must work towards increasing their number so every survivor in every part of Mzansi is able to access them. Please click here to add your name to this call:

When women have been under attack, the amandla .mobi community has consistently come together to fight this. We can do it again.

Together for justice,
Thuli, Koketso and Nqaba for amandla .mobi

PS: Our ally on this campaign Health-e news has developed a tool where women can share their testimonies about post-rape care. If you are a survivor of sexual violence and are willing to share your story to help others, please SMS ‘end rape’ to 38006 and follow the prompts. The SMS is free.

[1] ‘I would have killed myself’: Free app puts care at rape survivors’ fingertips. An article by Pontsho Pilane. Bhekisisa. 23 May 2017.
[2] Almost half of the centers for rape survivors may lose funding for counselling services. An article by Pontsho Pilane. Bhekisisa. 29 August 2016

Nonkie Smous Killed for being gay

While recent reports on the murder of part-time student Karabo Mokoena – whose body was discovered after she was burnt to death with acid with a tyre around her neck – have had South Africans reeling in horror, another equally disturbing murder has passed quietly by.

Mokoena’s death sparked national outrage and made international news when her boyfriend was arrested for the killing. The crime led to a social media storm, with the hashtag #MenAreTrash erupting on Twitter recently, sparking the public sharing of domestic abuse stories.

But in the Free State, where a similar hideous murder had taken place, it took police three weeks to confirm that the burnt body of a young woman discovered in Maokeng township near Kroonstad last month was that of Nonkie Smous.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community in the Free State have spoken out against the crime, believing Smous was murdered because she was gay. The young woman was finally laid to rest this past weekend.


Thabiso Mogapi, chairperson of Action for Social Justice International said “The family had to wait for more than three weeks for the outcome of the DNA results because the body could not be visually identified. We are now relieved because we can bury her. I believe that justice should be done because Nonkie did not deserve what happened to her.”

Several sources claim the 28 year-old lesbian was raped and brutally murdered before her body was set alight. Three man were originally arrested in connection with the murder. However two were let go and the third, charged with robbery because her cellphone and sneakers were found in his possession, has been released from custody.

Nthabiseng Mokonyane, an LGBTI activist and relative said “We were very upset and shocked about this because the last time we saw (Nonkie), she had gone to church. But she never came back home. The perpetrators should be punished and rot in jail.”

Zandile Nzinande (27), said “We get killed because of who we are. People should be educated so that they have a more liberal attitude towards homosexuals.”


Smous’s murder comes days just after Free State LGBTI community celebrated Pride. Virginia Magwazwa, LGBTI coordinator and gender activist, said “We are extremely disturbed by the recent incident regarding Karabo Mokoena, and wish that her family is comforted. But we also have an issue with the selective manner in which the country responds to incidents like these.”

“Nonki Smous was also a young woman who was killed and burnt by a man. But the difference is that she was gender non-confirming. Why did the EFF not write a statement on this particular incident? Maybe I’m too hurt, or perhaps missed something,” said Magwazwa.

A recent hate crime study by OUT LGBTI Wellbeing together with the Love Not Hate Campaign found that 41% of LGBTI people in South Africa know someone who has been murdered because of their sexual orientation.

Smous’s funeral took place last weekend at Seeisoville Community Hall and her body was laid to rest in Wespark Cemetery in Johannesburg.

An edited version of this story appeared in The Star.