Show: Late nights.
Topic: Gay people having more anxiety.
Host: Renaldo Schwap.
Show: Late nights.
Topic: Gay people having more anxiety.
Host: Renaldo Schwap.
The Global Interfaith Network for People of all Sexes, Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Expressions (GIN-SSOGIE) wishes to express how saddened and horrified we all are by the recent spate of attacks on women and gender non-conforming people.
On the 13th of May Matiisetso Aletta Taylor Nonki Smous, a black lesbian woman, was buried in Kroonstad in the Free State, South Africa. She was raped and burned to death in the first week of April, but only buried in the second week of May as the DNA results were delayed.
On the 14th of May reports began circulating on social media that another black lesbian woman had been killed on Saturday night in Soweto. Her name was Tambaai Lerato Moloi, her body was found in Naledi, Soweto, and she had been raped and stoned to death. She was buried last Saturday in Naledi, Soweto.
Two days before, on the 18th of May, it was reported that a gay man, 26-year-old Stephen Nketsi was found dumped in a hole in the township of Botshabelo, 45 km east of Bloemfontein, also in the Free State.
These violent incidents against LGBTI people are playing out in the context of a country where women, particularly those who are poor and black are not safe. In recent weeks there have been multiple cases of murder of (mostly black) women.
Those who have been following the news in South Africa, will have heard of the brutal killing of Karabo Mokoena by her boyfriend. On the same weekend on which Tambaai Lerato Moloi was killed in Soweto, three other women, Bongeka Phungula, Popi Qwabe and 15-year-old Nombuyiselo Nombewu were also killed.
The Interim Steering Committee (ISC) and Southern African members of GIN are united in condemning these attacks on women and LGBTI and gender non-conforming people and decry what Rev. Jide Macaulay (member of the ISC, House of Rainbow) laments as ‘the dangerous silence of the church’:
“When churches fail to speak out against the violence that is meted out to lesbian, gay and gender non-conforming people, they are failing in their duty to protect and affirm all life.”
Rev. Nokuthula Dhladhla, pastor of the House of Prayer and Worship, Soweto further points out,
“As Psalm 24:1 says ‘The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.’ That to me says that we all have a right to be here – and all means ALL. No one has the right to take someone else’s life because of the fact that they are different because God created us to be different. No one has a right to rule over anybody’s life and take a life of anyone because they’re not same. I believe that as churches and especially as religious leaders we have a mandate to stop preaching these hateful messages that are harmful to LGBTI people, that create the hate that is out there – the hate that leads others to take life and use the hateful messages that they hear from their leaders to justify killing others.”
Rev. Judith Kotze, part of Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM), notes that it is important that we create spaces to lament the violence so that our rage does not fill us and cause us to become like those who perpetrate the violence.
Ms. Thuli Mjwara, Process Facilitator for IAM, articulates the pain of watching daily the killings of our black lesbian sisters due to intolerance, prejudice, and homophobia.
“What cuts deeper is knowing that often in cases of “corrective rape” and gruesome murders of lesbians, the offenders are not strangers but persons known to the victim. This goes to show how unsafe we are as black lesbians. Despite that, we will not be silent or hide. We are part of our communities and refuse to be silent whilst being preyed upon. The violence on our bodies will not be swept under the carpet as we demand justice for the victims and safety for the living.”
Londiwe Xulu, also from IAM, notes: “They will not finish us.”
The Global Interfaith Network, therefore:
Decries the violence which is meted out to LGBTI, and gender non-conforming people, and women and children in general;
Calls upon the churches to immediately cease the promotion of homophobia, transphobia and the patriarchal understandings of gender that underpin, sponsor and promote this violence;
Urges the authorities in South Africa to speak out against the patriarchal norms and values that underpin, sponsor and promote this violence, and to prioritise the putting in place of systems and strategies to protect LGBTI, and gender non-conforming people and women and children from the scourge of patriarchal violence.
Requests the members of the Global Interfaith Network to join in prayer and solidarity with all South Africans;
Encourages the members of the Global Interfaith Network on the ground to join together with others to campaign against this scourge.
This briefing paper illustrates how Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-Being for All at All Ages, is relevant to the specific health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. The paper highlights existing data pertinent to the health and well-being of LGBTI people across seven targets within this Goal, as well as relevant data gaps. The paper then makes a series of recommendations regarding what type of data and indicators Member States should report in order to effectively monitor progress on LGBTI health needs and ensure implementation of SDG 3 is truly universal and in line with the SDGs principle of “leave no one behind.”
Data regarding LGBTI health needs are inadequate and incomplete across the globe, but the data that is available suggest that LGBTI people’s health is consistently poorer than the general population. Discrimination, violence, criminalization, and social exclusion are the social determinants for poor health outcomes. While LGBTI people share common experiences of marginalization based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), many also face intersecting forms of discrimination based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, ability, class, socioeconomic status, migration status, and other factors that drive exclusion.
Of particular concern is the disproportionate burden of HIV among gay and bisexual men and transwomen, and across LGBTI populations: poor mental health, higher prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, and inadequate funding for effective interventions. In addition, health workers often lack technical capacity and sensitivity to effectively address the needs of LGBTI people, making access to needed services exceedingly difficult.
Collecting accurate and complete data disaggregated by SOGIESC will allow for the formation of evidence-based laws and policies that serve to promote and protect LGBTI people’s right to health. Community-based and LGBTI-led organizations are crucial in collecting these data. Community-based organizations are also best positioned to provide safe, non-judgmental health care to LGBTI people. Improving the health and well-being of LGBTI people must be grounded in human rights approaches that respect autonomy, bodily integrity, and self-determination. Laws, policies, and practices that directly or indirectly criminalize consensual same-sex behavior and self-determination of gender identity must be repealed to eliminate barriers to LGBTI people realizing their right to health.
Civil society, UN agencies, and Member States must work together to ensure accurate and comprehensive reporting on LGBTI health and well-being in development programming. This is necessary to fulfill State obligations to the principle of “leave no one behind” in Agenda 2030.
Download the full report here.
Download the full fact sheet here.
Patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation. Yet most men do not use the word “patriarchy” in everyday life. Most men never think about patriarchy—what it means, how it is created and sustained. Many men in our nation would not be able to spell the word or pronounce it correctly. The word “patriarchy” just is not a part of their normal everyday thought or speech. Men who have heard and know the word usually associate it with women’s liberation, with feminism, and therefore dismiss it as irrelevant to their own experiences. I have been standing at podiums talking about patriarchy for more than thirty years. It is a word I use daily, and men who hear me use it often ask me what I mean by it.
Nothing discounts the old antifeminist projection of men as all-powerful more than their basic ignorance of a major facet of the political system that shapes and informs male identity and sense of self from birth until death. I often use the phrase “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy” to describe the interlocking political systems that are the foundation of our nation’s politics. Of these systems the one that we all learn the most about growing up is the system of patriarchy, even if we never know the word, because patriarchal gender roles are assigned to us as children and we are given continual guidance about the ways we can best fulfill these roles.
Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence. When my older brother and I were born with a year separating us in age, patriarchy determined how we would each be regarded by our parents. Both our parents believed in patriarchy; they had been taught patriarchal thinking through religion.
At church they had learned that God created man to rule the world and everything in it and that it was the work of women to help men perform these tasks, to obey, and to always assume a subordinate role in relation to a powerful man. They were taught that God was male. These teachings were reinforced in every institution they encountered– schools, courthouses, clubs, sports arenas, as well as churches. Embracing patriarchal thinking, like everyone else around them, they taught it to their children because it seemed like a “natural” way to organize life.
As their daughter I was taught that it was my role to serve, to be weak, to be free from the burden of thinking, to caretake and nurture others. My brother was taught that it was his role to be served; to provide; to be strong; to think, strategize, and plan; and to refuse to caretake or nurture others. I was taught that it was not proper for a female to be violent, that it was “unnatural.” My brother was taught that his value would be determined by his will to do violence (albeit in appropriate settings). He was taught that for a boy, enjoying violence was a good thing (albeit in appropriate settings). He was taught that a boy should not express feelings. I was taught that girls could and should express feelings, or at least some of them. When I responded with rage at being denied a toy, I was taught as a girl in a patriarchal household that rage was not an appropriate feminine feeling, that it should not only not be expressed but be eradicated. When my brother responded with rage at being denied a toy, he was taught as a boy in a patriarchal household that his ability to express rage was good but that he had to learn the best setting to unleash his hostility. It was not good for him to use his rage to oppose the wishes of his parents, but later, when he grew up, he was taught that rage was permitted and that allowing rage to provoke him to violence would help him protect home and nation.
We lived in farm country, isolated from other people. Our sense of gender roles was learned from our parents, from the ways we saw them behave. My brother and I remember our confusion about gender. In reality I was stronger and more violent than my brother, which we learned quickly was bad. And he was a gentle, peaceful boy, which we learned was really bad. Although we were often confused, we knew one fact for certain: we could not be and act the way we wanted to, doing what we felt like. It was clear to us that our behavior had to follow a predetermined, gendered script. We both learned the word “patriarchy” in our adult life, when we learned that the script that had determined what we should be, the identities we should make, was based on patriarchal values and beliefs about gender.
I was always more interested in challenging patriarchy than my brother was because it was the system that was always leaving me out of things that I wanted to be part of. In our family life of the fifties, marbles were a boy’s game. My brother had inherited his marbles from men in the family; he had a tin box to keep them in. All sizes and shapes, marvelously colored, they were to my eye the most beautiful objects. We played together with them, often with me aggressively clinging to the marble I liked best, refusing to share. When Dad was at work, our stay-at-home mom was quite content to see us playing marbles together. Yet Dad, looking at our play from a patriarchal perspective, was disturbed by what he saw. His daughter, aggressive and competitive, was a better player than his son. His son was passive; the boy did not really seem to care who won and was willing to give over marbles on demand. Dad decided that this play had to end, that both my brother and I needed to learn a lesson about appropriate gender roles.
One evening my brother was given permission by Dad to bring out the tin of marbles. I announced my desire to play and was told by my brother that “girls did not play with marbles,” that it was a boy’s game. This made no sense to my four- or five-year-old mind, and I insisted on my right to play by picking up marbles and shooting them. Dad intervened to tell me to stop. I did not listen. His voice grew louder and louder. Then suddenly he snatched me up, broke a board from our screen door, and began to beat me with it, telling me, “You’re just a little girl. When I tell you to do something, I mean for you to do it.” He beat me and he beat me, wanting me to acknowledge that I understood what I had done. His rage, his violence captured everyone’s attention. Our family sat spellbound, rapt before the pornography of patriarchal violence. After this beating I was banished—forced to stay alone in the dark. Mama came into the bedroom to soothe the pain, telling me in her soft southern voice, “I tried to warn you. You need to accept that you are just a little girl and girls can’t do what boys do.” In service to patriarchy her task was to reinforce that Dad had done the right thing by, putting me in my place, by restoring the natural social order.
I remember this traumatic event so well because it was a story told again and again within our family. No one cared that the constant retelling might trigger post-traumatic stress; the retelling was necessary to reinforce both the message and the remembered state of absolute powerlessness. The recollection of this brutal whipping of a little-girl daughter by a big strong man, served as more than just a reminder to me of my gendered place, it was a reminder to everyone watching/remembering, to all my siblings, male and female, and to our grown-woman mother that our patriarchal father was the ruler in our household. We were to remember that if we did not obey his rules, we would be punished, punished even unto death. This is the way we were experientially schooled in the art of patriarchy.
There is nothing unique or even exceptional about this experience. Listen to the voices of wounded grown children raised in patriarchal homes and you will hear different versions with the same underlying theme, the use of violence to reinforce our indoctrination and acceptance of patriarchy. In How Can I Get Through to You? family therapist Terrence Real tells how his sons were initiated into patriarchal thinking even as their parents worked to create a loving home in which antipatriarchal values prevailed. He tells of how his young son Alexander enjoyed dressing as Barbie until boys playing with his older brother witnessed his Barbie persona and let him know by their gaze and their shocked, disapproving silence that his behavior was unacceptable:
Without a shred of malevolence, the stare my son received transmitted a message. You are not to do this. And the medium that message was broadcast in was a potent emotion: shame. At three, Alexander was learning the rules. A ten second wordless transaction was powerful enough to dissuade my son from that instant forward from what had been a favorite activity. I call such moments of induction the “normal traumatization” of boys.
To indoctrinate boys into the rules of patriarchy, we force them to feel pain and to deny their feelings.
My stories took place in the fifties; the stories Real tells are recent. They all underscore the tyranny of patriarchal thinking, the power of patriarchal culture to hold us captive. Real is one of the most enlightened thinkers on the subject of patriarchal masculinity in our nation, and yet he lets readers know that he is not able to keep his boys out of patriarchy’s reach. They suffer its assaults, as do all boys and girls, to a greater or lesser degree. No doubt by creating a loving home that is not patriarchal, Real at least offers his boys a choice: they can choose to be themselves or they can choose conformity with patriarchal roles. Real uses the phrase “psychological patriarchy” to describe the patriarchal thinking common to females and males. Despite the contemporary visionary feminist thinking that makes clear that a patriarchal thinker need not be a male, most folks continue to see men as the problem of patriarchy. This is simply not the case. Women can be as wedded to patriarchal thinking and action as men.
Psychotherapist John Bradshaw’s clear sighted definition of patriarchy in Creating Love is a useful one: “The dictionary defines ‘patriarchy’ as a ‘social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family in both domestic and religious functions’.” Patriarchy is characterized by male domination and power. He states further that “patriarchal rules still govern most of the world’s religious, school systems, and family systems.” Describing the most damaging of these rules, Bradshaw lists “blind obedience—the foundation upon which patriarchy stands; the repression of all emotions except fear; the destruction of individual willpower; and the repression of thinking whenever it departs from the authority figure’s way of thinking.” Patriarchal thinking shapes the values of our culture. We are socialized into this system, females as well as males. Most of us learned patriarchal attitudes in our family of origin, and they were usually taught to us by our mothers. These attitudes were reinforced in schools and religious institutions.
The contemporary presence of female-headed households has led many people to assume that children in these households are not learning patriarchal values because no male is present. They assume that men are the sole teachers of patriarchal thinking. Yet many female-headed households endorse and promote patriarchal thinking with far greater passion than two-parent households. Because they do not have an experiential reality to challenge false fantasies of gender roles, women in such households are far more likely to idealize the patriarchal male role and patriarchal men than are women who live with patriarchal men every day. We need to highlight the role women play in perpetuating and sustaining patriarchal culture so that we will recognize patriarchy as a system women and men support equally, even if men receive more rewards from that system. Dismantling and changing patriarchal culture is work that men and women must do together.
Clearly we cannot dismantle a system as long as we engage in collective denial about its impact on our lives. Patriarchy requires male dominance by any means necessary, hence it supports, promotes, and condones sexist violence. We hear the most about sexist violence in public discourses about rape and abuse by domestic partners. But the most common forms of patriarchal violence are those that take place in the home between patriarchal parents and children. The point of such violence is usually to reinforce a dominator model, in which the authority figure is deemed ruler over those without power and given the right to maintain that rule through practices of subjugation, subordination, and submission.
Keeping males and females from telling the truth about what happens to them in families is one way patriarchal culture is maintained. A great majority of individuals enforce an unspoken rule in the culture as a whole that demands we keep the secrets of patriarchy, thereby protecting the rule of the father. This rule of silence is upheld when the culture refuses everyone easy access even to the word “patriarchy.” Most children do not learn what to call this system of institutionalized gender roles, so rarely do we name it in everyday speech. This silence promotes denial. And how can we organize to challenge and change a system that cannot be named?
Continue reading here.
Rejected by her family after coming out as gay, Patience Mufamadi-Mogashwa attempted suicide. She was diagnosed with depression.
She has also recently been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and frontal lobe epilepsy.
Although she initially “never really took being diagnosed with depression seriously”, she says the lack of family support made her illness worse.
Patience married Naledi Mufamadi-Mogashwa two years ago. She too has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
In addition to these disabilities and lack of acceptance from their families, the couple has had to face insensitive, prejudiced and uninformed medical practitioners.
“I have been to clinics where, after I said that I am in a relationship with a woman, I’d have nurses or doctors ask me: ‘But how does that work?’ ” says Naledi.
“This kind of thing has made us want to avoid seeing medical practitioners about certain things in our lives. It used to make my anxiety much worse, just the thought of having to tell this person how you have sex or whatever.”
She adds: “We have it good now, because we can go to private hospitals.”
Tish White, who identifies as non-binary, has been diagnosed with epilepsy, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“When it comes to queerness, there’s already a lot of stigma and pathology. With mental disability there is also this overarching assumption that, first, you don’t experience desire and that, second, you have to be protected. This combination can be condescending at best and abusive at worst.”
Citing an example of this, White, who identifies as asexual and nonbinary, says: “I remember seeing a doctor in hospital once and he asked me what I do for a living. I told him I work with LGBTIQA+ people [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and more].
“He asked me what the ‘A’ stands for and, when I told him, he said: ‘That’s a very serious disease.’
“Asexuality is so pathologised … it is not understood,” says White. “One has to remember that, although a common side-effect of mood stabilisers and antipsychotic agents is a drop in libido, being asexual has nothing to do with libido. If medical practitioners are not careful, they can play a very damaging and abusive role.”
The double discrimination queer people with disabilities face was highlighted in a report titled Disability, Sex Radicalism and Political Agency.
Written by Abby Wilkerson in 2002, the report used “queer and disability perspectives to argue that sexual agency is central to political agency”. It said a group’s experience of “sexually based harms and constraints on sexual agency” should be recognised as a “hallmark of oppression”.
The report found that “medical authority over sexuality” had the ability to shape sexual options and even their sense of themselves as sexual beings.
“Even — and perhaps especially — when this authority is used in benevolent ways, it accords the medical profession and related institutions an increasingly influential form of political power, which is too seldom acknowledged.”
Acknowledging this “form of political power” is discussed in a 2012 South African Medical Journal report, titled Sexuality, Disability and Human Rights: Strengthening Healthcare for Disabled People.
The report said healthcare practitioners “acted paternalistically towards disabled people, often deciding on their behalf what is in their best interests”. It acknowledged that “historically, health practitioners have underestimated the capacities of disabled people and from clinical encounters view disability as an illness, whereas in reality most disabled people are not ill”.
It added: “Health professionals have been seen as complicit in denying disabled people their rights to sexual expression and sexual choices, and in perpetuating myths about disabled people.
“On the one hand, disabled people have been viewed as asexual or as eternal children, and on the other they have been viewed as sexually rampant and unable to control sexual impulses.”
Eddie Ndopu is a queer and disabled persons’ rights activist.
“There is a desexualisation of people with disabilities; an imposition of the absence of wanting sexual pleasure. You are told that you should not want to feel desire because you’re disabled. It is quite insidious,” he says.
“If we look at the way in which we construct beauty and pleasure, in a very active way, we render disabled bodies undesirable and invisible. As a society, we need to start seeing sexuality in more complex ways. We need to re-educate ourselves.”
Offering up an opportunity for education (and re-education) was what the See It, Sign It, Know It, Share it project aimed to do. Headed up by John Meletse, a deaf person and gay rights activist, and Cheraé Halley, the project was spearheaded by Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA).
Initiated in 2006, the project aimed to help reduce the level of HIV in the general deaf population in South Africa. It included the publication of an LGBTI-focused comic book titled Are Your Rights Respected? and video tutorials for deaf lesbians aimed at breaking stereotypes and providing steps for women to take if assaulted in any way.
“Homosexuality is extremely discriminated against in the deaf community,” says Halley. “What particularly came out of the peer education sessions we held was that these boxes that we have created — labels such as LGBTI — were not known in the deaf community. One participant, now a well-known deaf transgender woman, didn’t use or even know the word transgender. It was a revelation for this woman to discover that she is not gay but a trans woman.
“Even sign language was largely discriminatory. The sign language used for gay indicated anal sex. So people were going around using these kinds of signs that were actually discriminatory. For a gay person, seeing someone use that sign was offensive.”
Although the project yielded success, it ended in March last year, largely because of a lack of funding.
“People distance themselves from anything to do with disability,” says Ndopu, adding: “You know, in my previous relationships, I had to do a lot of educating. But this is not much different from everyday relationships. It’s the same shit. It’s all fucked and you’re just negotiating your way through the fuckery.
“But at this point in my life, I’m not compromising. I’m not diminishing my disability to accommodate someone’s sensibility. I’m an unapologetically disabled, black queer.”
This uncompromising stance is one Patience and Naledi have adopted.
“When I have to deal with a medical practitioner, a doctor or my psychologist, I always mention my wife. It is because of her that I am better today. She is my number one.”
As for her struggle with her family’s lack of acceptance, Patience says: “It would be nice if they acknowledged my relationship and sexual orientation but it doesn’t really matter that much anymore. I have someone who accepts me and loves me as I am. We support each other completely. And that’s so important. It’s all that matters to me.”
A landmark ruling unfolded last week when the Seshego Magistrate’s Court ordered the Limpopo Department of Education to pay R60,000 in personal compensation to Nare Mphela, a transgender woman from Ga-Matlala village. The case, which was officially brought to the court by the South African Human Rights Commission on November 14, 2016, is hailed as a triumph for LGBTIQ+ rights in South Africa. However, the story has its roots as far back as 2014, with Mphela only now, emerging from her bureaucratic purgatory. By KELLYN BOTHA.
The ordeal began when Mphela began facing severe discrimination for her gender identity from the school principal, KF Manamela, who, according to her, instructed her friends to stop referring to her as their “sister”; told them to provoke and harass her in the school toilets; as well as to grab her crotch “and find out what is there”. Manamela was further said to have forbidden Mphela from singing hymns and would employ corporal punishment (illegal since 1997) in order to discipline her.
In an effort to end the abuse, Mphela approached the Advice Office in Ga-Matlala near her school. The office directed her to Limpopo LGBTI Proudly Out, a local advocacy organisation. Mphela also approached the Limpopo branch of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), who directed her to the Seshego Magistrate’s Court in Polokwane. However, the Equality Court had never dealt with any case pertaining to the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (The Equality Act) since its inception in 2000. Thus the clerk on duty had no knowledge of how to process Mphela’s case.
Such events are not unique to Mphela, as any transgender person would know. South Africa’s Constitution is one of the most progressive in the world regarding the protection of LGBTIQ+ persons’ rights, and multiple laws, such as the Equality Act, serve to supplement this. However, this does not always translate into action from the various levels of the state.
In July 2014, Limpopo LGBTI Proudly Out was in contact with Iranti-org, a Johannesburg based media-advocacy organisation which focuses specifically on the rights of lesbians, transgender and intersex people.
According to Jabulani Pereira, Director at Iranti-org, “Iranti contacted Webber Wentzel Attorneys, our pro bono legal support, and requested their assistance in representing Nare at the equality court. We also documented her story, along with other learners who faced similar forms of discrimination.”
One week later, representatives from Iranti-org had travelled to meet with Limpopo LGBTI Proudly Out and Mphela. The two groups went to the Seshego Magistrate’s court to press for action. When approached by the activists, Mphela’s principal denied any wrongdoing, claiming that all “homosexuals” were welcome at his school. Homosexuality and being transgender are two different issues – sexual orientation and gender identity.
After years of mounting pressure, the SAHRC approached the court in November 2016 and it seems that the Seshego Equality Court did not agree with Manamela’s assertions about his school’s openness.
On March 10 2017, the courts sided with the SAHRC’s recommendations, having been, “satisfied with the credibility of the complainant’s testimony”. This, according to SAHRC spokesperson, Gail Smith, was based on the testimony of an expert witness who argued that Mphela faced severe discrimination and trauma, which the court found to be “incontestable”.
For Iranti-org’s Pereira, “the delays in the justice support are not helpful for cases that require urgent and immediate remedies. Nare’s rights were violated for almost three years. Due to the trauma she suffered she was not able to complete her matric”.
Mphela now lives in Johannesburg, having been unable to matriculate. She struggles with the cost of living and still spends time at home in Limpopo where she can be supported. This situation seems set to change though.
The Limpopo Department of Education, was found to have failed to react sufficiently to the situation, and was ordered to pay R60,000 to Mphela in damages; R20,000 for her psychological expenses; and a further R20,000 for her to complete her education. Manamela was found guilty of breaching the Equality Act and was ordered to attend gender sensitivity training in what must be considered a very progressive move.
“We don’t always want to go the litigation route as it costs the state, but the state is negligent and transphobic and leaves us with little room other than litigation,” says Pereira. Doubtless, R100,000 plus the costs of maintaining this legal battle could have been well spent by the Limpopo Department of Education in other areas. Limpopo Province is listed as having around 932 schools with only pit-toilets, and hundreds of schools across the region lack electricity or proper learning materials. The fact that the department would dedicate its efforts to defending a principal who advocated for harassing a young woman in his school’s toilets, rather than working on upgrading those facilities to allow safe and inclusive sanitation for all, is rather telling.
This historic victory has organisations such as the SAHRC and Iranti-org celebrating the reaffirmation of LGBTIQ+ rights in South Africa, which are all too often ignored by the state and its citizens.
“(The Equality Act) is a beautiful piece of legislation, which says if you come to me and call me names because of your ignorance, I should have a remedy. But then the reality comes which is something someone like Nare had to face,” said Tshegofatso Phala of Webber Wentzel Attorneys during a speech at a 2015 Transgender Day Of Remembrance memorial. Phala, who has represented Iranti-org’s clients for a number of years, knows all too well the fate of many LGBTIQ+ South Africans. The youth are particularly vulnerable.
“We are still working on a case in the North West Province of a young lesbian learner who was sexually molested by her teacher because of her sexual orientation,” says Pereira, who notes that discrimination within schools is common. In the very same week that Mphela won her case, The Herald reported that 38 young women at a school in Mdantsane, Eastern Cape, were forced by their principle to “out” themselves to their peers and parents as punishment for their sexual orientation. The principal, allegedly stating that how she dealt with “problems” at her school was not a matter for the media to look into, will perhaps find the judiciary looking onto her methods. After this historic SAHRC hearing, those in charge of educating the next generation of South Africans may find themselves forced to finally comply with the laws of the land.
With so many instances of open discrimination ongoing, and cases like Nare Mphela’s taking years to gain traction, many LGBTIQ+ students are in a race against time. It is yet to be seen whether the precedent set in Limpopo will have an effect on such cases in other provinces, but at least for one young woman, the finish line of this particular marathon is finally drawing near.
While this is a victory to be celebrated, we also know that Mphela’s personal well being, and the well being of countless other vulnerable South Africans, is far from guaranteed. Unicef has officially made a call for “legislation that is non-discriminatory, a change in social norms and greater awareness and access to knowledge” on issues of gender-diversity in schools as “critical components of an enabling environment to protect LGBT children and parents from discrimination”.
Changing the mindset of the teachers and peers of transgender and other LGBTIQ+ youth, facilitating a revamp of our sex-ed and uniform policies to be more inclusive, are only the first (yet most crucial) steps toward accepting transgender students, and realising that they, like everyone else, merely want to live and learn in peace. It will take some real political will power to roll out the required changes. But when the alternative is being forced to do damage control by the courts, it surely will be worth the effort. DM
Kellyn Botha is a writer and media reporter for Iranti-org in Johannesburg. Her fight for trans rights in South Africa started in 2015, with a belief that media representation of transgender issues is the key to raising awareness. As with all people though, she is more than her gender, and follows politics, scientific discoveries, and series like Game of Thrones very intently.
Photo: Nare Mphela stands outside her school in June 2014 wearing the girls’ assigned uniform to match her gender identity. Photo: Gugu Mandla
* “LGBQIA+, Transgender and Queer” includes trans, transsexual, nonbinary, gender non-conforming, gender diverse people, crossdressers, ALL genders and non-genders, and ALL sexual orientations (asexual, pansexual, bisexual, etc.)
This journey is NOT an easy one, but many people say that once they live as themselves and stop living a lie, the relief and freedom of being themselves outweigh, or at least balance the difficulty of the journey. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
The reality that we live in a world that does not understand LGBQIA+ and specifically Trans, Queer and people who do not conform to gender or sexual orientation norms is very real. And so is the stigma. The fear of reaching out for any medical, social or psychological treatment is very common and understandable, and there is not one person in this community who has not avoided asking for help as we often face discrimination and emotional and/or psychological and/or physical violence.
But, there is help out there. Please continue to empower yourself by knowing you are NOT alone. Reach out for help. Support each other. While expecting discrimination, also allow for the fact that you might get the help you need. We need to build the society we need to help us by ourselves by working with the system as it is, and by finding and sharing people out there who are willing to listen and help.
EVERYONE on this list has been referred by LGBQIA+, trans and queer people or trans- and queer-friendly medical professionals. So they are ALL great. But, if you have a bad experience, please let me or any of the other NGOs and resources know.
SOUTH AFRICA & AFRICA
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