South Africa Hub




Will South Africa Become a Roadblock To International LGBT Rights?

South Africa, which was once an essential nation to advancing LGBTI rights in international diplomacy, has since become a potential roadblock, according to Huffington Post.

South africaIn 2011, South Africa sponsored a resolution before the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) that, for the first time, recognized LGBTI rights as human rights. Supporters of the resolution believed that it required at least one prominent African backer in order to prevent it playing into the hands of LGBTI rights opponents in Africa and other parts of the world.

However, when an updated version of the resolution was tabled last week at a HRC meeting, South Africa’s name was not on it. With a vote expected this week, some LGBTI rights supporters are now concerned that South Africa  could turn against the resolution.

This comes following a move by South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party to block a parliamentary motion to condemn Uganda’s severe anti-gay laws - which have since been struck down.

According to Mmapeseka Steve Letsike, a lesbian activist who chairs the South African National AIDS Council’s Civil Society Forum:

“We currently have leadership that fails to represent the ethos of what the constitution says and the equality principles they have to uphold. We have leadership going out of this country putting their personal beliefs before its own people. We have leaders that fail to protect their own.”

MandelaSome South African activists regard these decisions to move away from supporting LGBTI rights internationally as part of a larger trend in the country’s leadership.

While Nelson Mandela and other leaders of the African National Congress embraced LGBTI rights, that commitment is not as strong among the younger generation of leaders, most notably President Jacob Zuma, who called same-sex marriage “a disgrace to the nation and to God” around the time the unions won legal recognition in the country.

The resolution’s supporters are optimistic that they will have the votes to pass the resolution and nobody believes it is possible that South Africa would vote against it on the final vote. It could abstain on a final vote or vote for a procedural motion that would kill the resolution by denying an up or down vote — exactly what it did to keep the inclusive language out of the Protection of the Family resolution in June.

The lack of support for the updated HRC resolution actually comes at a time that there is a new commitment from the government to fighting anti-LGBTI hate crimes inside the country, spurred by a series of horrific rapes and murders of black lesbians.


Muslim Academic Receives Death Threats Over Plans For Gay-Friendly Mosque - VIDEO

Burka

Death threats have been sent to organizers of a planned women- and gay-friendly new mosque in Cape Town, South Africa, reports The Telepgraph.

According to Taj Hargey, the director of the “forward thinking” organization Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, his Open Mosque will welcome all genders, religions and sexual orientations when it opens in Wynberg, a Cape Town suburb, on Friday.

6a00d8341c730253ef01a73e17c457970d-800wiHargey, who previously called for Muslims in Britain to ban the burka, said that he has received many positive responses to the mosque but confirmed that he has also received “a lot of death threats.”

Explaining the mission of the mosque, he said:

"You go to churches and often see the sign 'All Welcome'. This is the single mosque in the whole country that sadly has the words 'All Welcome' underneath it. I decided that being Cape Town-born I had to do something. We had a political evolution in this country 20 years ago and what we need now is a religious revolution, especially in the Muslim community.

"You enter the mosque, do I ask you the question who did you sleep with last night? No. It's not my business who you slept with.

"Women will enter the same doors as men, women will take part in the service. This is the first time you'll see men and women praying together. We wanted a mosque that reflects 21st century South Africans not some seventh century utopia that never existed."

However, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), a non-profit religious advocacy group, is "in the process of investigating the policy and objectives of the mosque".

Last week, the MJC’s deputy president Riad Fataar said:

"We see and feel the anxiousness in our community. We see in the newspaper clippings and the messages that this is a place of worship but we can't call it a mosque. But again we cannot make a complete statement until we have all the facts."

In November 2012, a gay-friendly mosque opened in Paris, France.

Watch a report on Hargey's call for a burka ban in the U.K., AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Muslim Academic Receives Death Threats Over Plans For Gay-Friendly Mosque - VIDEO" »


South Africa To Evacuate 500 Rhinos To Save Them From Poachers

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The South African government has announced it will relocate as many as 500 rhinos form the Kruger National Park, a large nature reserve comparable in size to Israel or Wales and home to 8,400 white Rhinos. As the BBC reports, the move comes as illegal hunting of Rhinos has risen dramatically in the last seven years

South Africa is home to more than 80% of Africa's rhinos. Illegal poaching has risen sharply from 13 in 2007 to 1,004 in 2013.

Environment Minister Edna Molewa said the relocations from the Kruger National Park, coupled with the creation of "rhino strongholds", could "allow the total rhino population size of South Africa to continue to grow."

"South Africa, with its large rhino populations, has borne the brunt of rhino poaching. We remain confident that our efforts in implementing the integrated strategic approach will build on our successful track record of conserving rhino," she said.

South Africa's rhinos are primarily being hunted for their tusks. And though the trading of rhino horn has been against international law since 1977, the black market continues to thrive as demand for rhino horn is still high in some Asian nations.  

Other poachers seek to kill African rhino merely for the “sport” of it.

(Photo by Andy Towle)


South African President Appoints Country's First Gay Cabinet Minister

South African President Jacob Zuma has named Lynne Brown as his public enterprises minister. Brown will be the first openly gay cabinet minister in South Africa, the Guardian reports:

BrownShe is not seen as a gay rights activist but her ascent to a cabinet post was described on Monday as a significant moment.

Eusebius McKaiser, a broadcaster and political author, who is gay, said: "It is, sadly, probably newsworthy, I guess, insofar as the social impact of openly gay people in high-profile public leadership positions cannot be discounted in a country like South Africa where levels of homophobia, including violence against black lesbian women, remain rife.

"The symbolism matters from an African perspective, too, given other countries around us are enacting and enforcing laws criminalising same-sex sex and lifestyles."

Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, said: "I think it's worth drawing attention to. She's not a gay rights campaigner – it's not recognition in that sense – but the fact that under the most socially conservative president since 1994 there is the first openly gay minister in such a position is significant."

In related news, we reported over the weekend that South Africa's parliament swore in its first openly gay, black member: 29-year-old Zakhele Mbhele, an LGBT activist.


South Africa Swears In First Openly Gay, Black Member Of Parliament

South Africa's parliament made history this week, swearing in the country, and the continent's first openly gay, black member. Zakhele Mbhele (below, right), at only 29 years of age, has a rich history of gay-related activism under his belt, leading his university's LGBT group and serving on the Joburg Pride board. More importantly, though, he hopes to bestow this specific insight to the South African parliament and create an even safer, more equal environment for LGBT individuals and communities.

ZakhelembheleMamba Online reports:

[Mbhele] admitted that the impact of his achievement as a gay man hasn’t been at the front of his mind. “I know what it means as a historical milestone but I’m not walking around thinking of myself as the first openly gay black MP in Africa or singularly defining myself by it.”

Mbhele said, however, that he hopes that his new high profile position will inspire LGBT youth to believe in themselves and to have confidence in their ability to realise their goals.

“One of the most damaging things about homophobia is its destructive effect on a young LGBT person’s self-esteem. That was certainly one of the issues I grappled with when I was coming to terms with my sexuality in my teen years,” he explained.

“Having more openly gay achievers in society can counter that damage by giving young LGBT people role models to inspire them to build their self-confidence and work ambitiously to achieve their dreams.”

Mbhele does not plan to rely on his visibility alone to encourage meaningful structural changes in society, though. LGBT-related issues, including anti-gay and transphobic hate crimes, will remain at the forefront of his efforts. The new MP expressed:

“Many people are blind to structural issues relating to patriarchy, heteronormativity and economic disadvantage because of their social position and I would like to bring a voice that highlights those hidden dimensions.”

...[Mbhele] believes that Parliament should play a stronger role in assisting the country’s LGBT community by continuing to amend and pass laws that make equality more substantive, (and holding government accountable to upholding those laws), as well as serving as a debate platform to challenge prejudices against LGBT people in South Africa and in other African countries.

He expressed particular disappointment in South Africa's silence regarding the passage of anti-gay laws in Uganda and Nigeria. Perhaps Mbhele's historic election, and hopefully subsequent progress, will spread a favorable image and positively impact the African LGBT community beyond the borders of South Africa. 

For now, congratulations from Towleroad to Zakhele Mbhele on this fantastic achievement!


Gay Men Now Allowed to Donate Blood in South Africa

South Africa has ended its ban on blood donation by gay men, Mamba Online reports:

BloodOn Tuesday, Vanessa Raju, SANBS Communications Manager, confirmed to Mambaonline that a new non-discriminatory policy had been put in place that favours people in monogamous relationships, regardless of their sexuality.

She said that anyone who has a new sexual partner will not be allowed to donate blood for six months, and that anyone who has multiple partners will not be allowed to donate blood. Both criteria are irrespective of a person’s sexual orientation.

“This policy would apply to me, for example, who’s just started dating someone new,” Raju added. “But people who are in monogamous male same-sex relationships [for more than six months] can now donate.”

She explained that the previous policy had been put in place on the basis of international statistics and trends. “It took us a while because we didn’t have local facts that warranted changing our policy, although we knew South Africa was different from other countries in terms of risk of HIV,” said Raju.

The U.S. still prohibits blood donation by any man who has had sex with another man since 1977. Last August, 84 Democratic lawmakers led by Senator Tammy Baldwin urged HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to end the ban, saying that it “continues to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes against gay and bisexual men and fosters an atmosphere that promotes discrimination.”


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