Despite having constitutional and legislative protection of the rights of people of different sexual orientation, South Africa has recently seen an increase in the number of attacks against lesbians, gays and transgender people.
Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister, John Jeffery, said while Pride Month, which is celebrated annually in June, was marked in many parts of the world, South Africa was seeing a spate of attacks against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) persons in the country.
“These attacks are extremely concerning and put the dignity, well-being and safety of all people of different sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics in South Africa at heightened risk.
“Individuals in these vulnerable communities continue to be subjected to hate crimes and gender based violence (GBV). At the same time we are also seeing allegations of homophobia and bullying of LGBTQI+ learners at schools in our country,” Jeffery said.
He was addressing the media on the department’s efforts to address hate crimes against LGBTQI+ persons.
During a meeting with the National Task Team on the Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons, held on Wednesday, it was reported that as at 29 June, 2021 42 pending hate crimes were perpetrated against that community.
Of the 42 pending cases, 30 cases are for murder and 12 are for rape.
“Out of the 42 pending hate crime cases, approximately 29 hate crime cases were reported from 2020 to date. Of these 29 hate crime cases, 16 are on the court roll with remand dates with the remaining 13 cases still under investigation.
“Eight cases have been finalised, some with significant sentences such as life imprisonment for rape (Daveyton), 25 years imprisonment for rape (Ikageng), 25 years imprisonment for murder (Umlazi), and 14 years imprisonment for rape (Greytown),” the Deputy Minister said.
Some 14 cases have been closed as undetected due to a lack of evidence, but may be referred to the National Prosecuting Authority to review the dockets.
Jeffery said the pending cases are being actively monitored, with government departments working with the SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority and civil society to ensure that they are thoroughly investigated, arrests are made and prosecutions follow.
The Deputy Minister emphasised that the crimes perpetrated against LGBTQI+ persons can only addressed if the information is known to law enforcement agencies.
Revised National Intervention Strategy
The Deputy Minister announced that plans are underway to have further strategic discussions on enhanced collaboration and interventions to promote and protect the rights of LGBTQI+ persons.
While the NTT was initially created to respond to hate crimes against LGBTQI+ people, the adoption of the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide National Strategic Plan (NSP-GBVF) requires that the NTT reconsiders its NIS in order to also integrate its responses to GBVF related crimes against LGBTQI+ people.
As a result, he said, the reviewed National Intervention Strategy (NIS) 2021 – 2025 is an opportunity to use the NTT to also respond to GBVF in ways that expand access to broader human, socio-economic, civil and political rights to LGBTQI+ people in South Africa, among others.
“Our real challenges are in implementation and in changing societal attitudes in our communities.
“Changing societal attitudes is the only way to ensure that persons are not victims of violence or discrimination in their daily lives on the grounds of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics,” the Deputy Minister said.
Activist, Steve Letsike, said the revitalisation of NTT at this difficult time for the LGBTQI+ community in South Africa will need to focus on implementation that helps the country to prioritise rights protection, promotion and fulfilment as enshrined in the Constitution.
“The urgency of turning the tide on human rights violations is needed now more than ever. Stakeholders must discharge of their responsibilities, coherent strategies must be implemented, and lives must be saved. We have that responsibility,” Letsike said.