The LGBTQI+ community is doing it for themselves, enforcing their rights and celebrating their existence. Deekay Sibanda takes a closer look.

 

September is national Pride month in South Africa. LGBTQI+ people commemorate the month by  organising different activities and events to celebrate their identity and the diversity of their community. Activities also raise awareness around the wide spectrum of injustices committed against LGBTQI+ people and to reclaim their rights. 

In the past few months we have seen weekly reports covering stories of discrimination and hate crimes  members of the LGBTQI+ community have had to endure,  in response to their sexual orientation and gender identity. These gruesome acts range from violent attacks  to brutal murders throughout  the country. 

Hate crimes are in the spotlight again after a number of queer people lost their lives and others are being discriminated against their Sexual orientation and Gender Identity. “Bill of rights chapter 2 section 9 subsection (3)”  states that no one should be discriminated against for their sexual orientation and gender identity.

President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the brutal killings and attacks of LGBTQI+ persons during his   Freedom day celebration speech in Botshabelo, Free State. His sentiments echoed those engrained in the fabric of our country’s principles – the Bill of Rights. “As a country, we must say no to homophobia and all forms of intolerance against members of the LGBTQI+ community.”

Queer people demand action on these homophobic attacks happening in South Africa. On the 21st of April 2021, there was a joint statement published by the LGBTQI+ community, and Mamba online calling on government and President Cyril Ramaphosa to take action and accountability in addressing issues of hate crimes and the murders on queer bodies.

Regardless of the violence happening to  LGBTQI+ people, queer people still continue to mobilise and create/organise safe spaces in their communities. 

Jade  Uhuru Madingwane, a Programs Officer at the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), reported that FEW will be hosting a conference  from the end of September to the beginning of October to hold the government accountable on the hate crimes that have been  unfolding over the years. She pointed to the fact that this year, in particular, reported hate crimes are at their peak.  Madingwane stated, “The conference seeks to question government on their responsibility to ensure that LGBTQI+ people lives matter seeing that the constitution allows for us to live in a just society.”  

The fact that the LGBTQI+ organisations are still fighting  for their rights, shows that our constitution is written beautifully on paper. However, marginalised groups are not enjoying those rights.  

A lot of time the LGBTQI+ community faces constant discrimination, marginalization, violence,  and bullying. 

Tshepiso Leeu Founder of  6 Band Events, a queer event company that aims to create safe and innovative spaces where the Queer community can network, showcase their talents, their  businesses and express themselves freely. 6 Band Events is hosting  Queer Festival on the 24th of September at Constitutional Hill to celebrate Heritage day and Pride month. 

Leeu said, “We believe that as 6 Band Events we are part of the movement, that challenges LGBTQI+ struggles by creating visibility and advocating for acceptance,” 

She also mentioned their inclusiveness in addressing all issues that are affecting the LGBTQI+ community, “We embrace everyone as they are and have opened our platform to everyone under our LGBTQI+ umbrella and occasionally invite influential people outside the space to help spread the word.” 

With all these attacks and killings queer people still find ways to be proud of who they are and celebrate their sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Nate Brown is an Executive Director at Pan Africa International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) in South Africa.  He has articulated himself very well on the issue of the government being accountable on violence against LGBTQI+ persons and he touched on  what pride means to him. “Pride is a sense of remembering where we come from and the progress we have made, it’s about the importance of celebrating who we are as the LGBTQI+ people.” 

Brown also touched on the lack of actions and accountability from the government, he shared,  “Little to nothing is being done and there is no importance on the lives lost within our community. “Most LGBTQI+ organisations have raised their frustration at the president/government not having any plan of action to address these issues. 

LGBTQI+ community is using different tools and mechanisms to conscientise the masses and influence change. They organise and mobilise in fighting inequalities, systems, existence and the right to live.

Sebitswe Mogale,  co-founder and co-director of the  Queer Film Cinema, talked about the Kasi-2-Kasi Queer Cinema that is  currently happening in different townships the film festival is a celebratory, information-sharing gathering, which screen a variety of queer films and documentaries to educate, challenge and reflect on the lives of the marginalized communities of our country, continent and the world. 

He says, “The cinema is not just a space where only queer identifying people meet to watch and discuss films and issues that are important to their community.” The cinema is also reaching out to the society at large and  “a space where parents, families and friends/allies of queer people are provided with an opportunity to share and learn through participating in film screenings and facilitated discussions.”

There are different queer events, workshops, webinars, conferences etc that are happening during this month just to highlight some of them. Part of the importance of these activities is building and sensitizing public servants and the society at large. 

There is Soweto Pride, Ekurhuleni Pride, Queer Festival, Kasi to Kasi Queer film festival, Lunch of Soweto Pride and City of Joburg, PAI’s 5th Regional Conference, Sensitization workshops with SAPS by FEW and many other. For more information on the above activities. Kindly visit their social media pages.

*Sibanda is Program Officer at Accountability Lab South Africa