As the world marks the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17 (tomorrow) the South African LGBTI community in Johannesburg will be launching a new campaign. The “Hands Off Our Rights Campaign” will bring together a number of organisations and individuals mainly from different townships around Johannesburg.
The campaign is a reaction to the recent statement by Patekile Holomisa, leader of the House of Traditional leaders to the effect that “the ANC knows that the ‘great majority’ of South Africans do not want to promote or protect the rights of gays and lesbians.” Holomisa also happens to be the chairperson of the Constitutional Review Committee.
May 17 is the day when Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people find an opportunity to celebrate and enjoy their existence. Such gatherings mainly occur in countries where there is already legislation that respects the existence of LGBTI people. Most importantly the day is also used to encourage acknowledgement and legitimisation of LGBTI people’s rights in other countries where such rights are still a dream.
Recent developments in South Africa should serve to remind us all of the significance of this day.
In a press statement released today by the campaign it was said that the new campaign was formed in order to ensure that the following points were executed and achieved.
- A strong Constitutional rights defence is established and is effective
- All organisations, communities, citizens have a full understanding of the Constitutional Review process in order to encourage engagement and participation
- Awareness is raised on the possible threat against our rights, our dignity and freedom by those who are intentionally pushing their selfish interests
- Work together with non LGBTI organisations in defending not only the sexual orientation right but all the rights within the Bill of Rights found in the Constitution of the Republic Act 108 of 1996.
- A joint submission amongst the groups to be developed and submitted to the Review Committee before the 30th May 2012
The first step to be taken by the campaign is joining the organised march in Johannesburg organised by other LGBTI groups. People will be coming from different areas on Saturday, May 19, 2012 calling for the protection of the LGBTI rights found in the Constitution.
A significant number of people under the banner of the “Hands off Our Rights Campaign” will join force with people in locally, nationally and internationally to ensure that our rights are preserved and not tampered with in any way whatsoever.
Statements such as the one by Holomisa have stimulated great concern within the LGBTI community. The LGBTI community has realised there is a huge need for it to embark on the continued enlightenment of the various communities around these issues.
According to the press statement, “This need continues despite the existence of the rights within the Bill of Rights of the Constitution and is even more important with the on-going Constitutional Review process, which some in the nation’s leadership hope to manipulate and aim to use for their own interests.
“The recent call for the removal of the protections around sexual orientation from the Constitution cannot be isolated from the move for passing the Traditional Courts Bill. The Bill has been widely criticised for being a proposed legislation that will undermine all the strides made in the development of rural women.
“This Bill is seen as taking the country ten steps back since women’s rights will be setting aside and enforcing male dominance within the rural parts of the country. In the rural areas the authorities have failed to acknowledge the presence of lesbian women and the Bill will make it worse and more dangerous if the right to sexual orientation is threatened. It is important that the country, not only the LGBTI community but all citizens become worried about these moves and calls that are intending to threaten the country’s democracy that is based on the values of equality and dignity.
“[The] Constitutional Review process should be made public [so] that everyone that lives in this country should know about it, engage it and with it.”