Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the 5 Year Anniversary of Iranti-org, held at 87 De Korte Street, Braamfontein, 28 September 2017
Distinguished guests, friends
Iranti is a Yoruba word meaning memory, remembrance, souvenir.
So it the ideal time for us to think back, to reflect and to remember.
We celebrate the work that has been done by Iranti over the past 5 years.
It has been 5 years since Jabulani Pereira co-founded Iranti with Neo Musangi in 2012. Iranti-org explores the merging of the arts, visual media and human rights.
It has been five years of activism and advocacy for the rights of lesbian, transgender and intersex persons.
It has been five years of monitoring the lived experiences and recording their stories.
One of my first interactions with Iranti was after the tragic and brutal murder of Thapelo Makutle.
As we reflect, we also remember those who passed, those who, like Thapelo, paid the ultimate price, their lives, for simply being who they are. We remember people like Duduzile Zozo, Noxolo Nogwaza, Eudy Simelane, Noluvo Swelindawo, Nonki Smous, Lerato Tambai Moloi and many others.
All of us here this evening work in the area of LGBTIQ activism and the prevention of violence and discrimination against LGBTIQ persons.
We do what we do to for people like Duduzile and others I have mentioned.
We have to direct our efforts to try and prevent the same things happening to others.
Many of you will be familiar with the work of the National Task Team on LGBTI Rights.
The NTT, as we call it, consists of various government departments, the National Prosecuting Authority, the SAPS, The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Department of Basic Education, the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Health, the Department of Women and various civil society bodies.
Iranti-org has also recently joined the NTT and we look forward to a long and very constructive relationship with you.
We are very proud of the work being done by our NTT. And, we are pleased to say, that it is not only within our own department - the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development – that we are seeing wonderful initiatives and interventions taking shape around LGBTIQ rights, but across government.
For example, the Department of Social Development’s first National LGBTIQ Dialogue, which took place in Gugulethu in May this year, was attended by civil society, faith-based, higher education, community-based, and non-profit organisations that are all working on LGBTIQ issues.
The main aim of the National LGBTIQ Dialogue was to bring together key stakeholders from government, human rights and social justice activists, civil society and other development partners to discuss the struggles of people from the LGBTIQ community in an attempt to find ways to raise awareness, reduce discrimination, provide services, support interventions and law and policy reform, as well as highlight human rights issues.
The DSD has since embarked on establishing sensitization presentations for DSD officials as well as setting up a dedicated LGBTIQ Rights Focal Point and Forum.
As you may also know, we are continuing our work on the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.
The current wording of the Bill says that a hate crime is an offence recognised under any law, the commission of which is motivated on the basis of that person’s prejudice, bias or intolerance towards the victim of the hate crime in question because of one or more of the following characteristics or perceived characteristics of the victim or his or her family member: Race; gender; sex, which includes intersex; ethnic or social origin; colour; sexual orientation; religion; belief culture; language; birth; disability; HIV status; nationality; gender identity; albinism; or occupation or trade.
Any person who incites, instigates, commands, directs, aids, promotes, advises, recruits, encourages or procures any other person to commit a hate crime or conspires with any other person to commit a hate crime, will be guilty of an offence.
We believe that this new law will send a message, loud and clear, that there is no place for hate and prejudice in our society.
There is still a long way to go in ridding society of anti-LGBTIQ prejudice, but we must also salute and celebrate the victories along the way.
And in some instances, society is evolving – albeit very slowly.
For example, when Miss SA finalist and Miss Mamelodi Sundowns, Sharon Rose Khumalo, recently spoke out about being intersex, the response was positive and supportive. I would dare to suggest that perhaps as little as 5 years’ ago, the general response from the public would have been very different.
Also we are more attentive to the use of language in relation to LGBTIQ rights and equality. Unisa’s Professor Azwihangwisi Mavhandu-Mudzusi is working alongside the University of Venda’s Professor Vhonani Olive Netshandama on the Deconstructing Matula project.
Matula, which means “taboo” or Matudzi, which means “bad omen,” is what is used to refer to a queer person in Venda. The project seeks to debunk this belief and to find and use terms that are not offensive and do not carry a message of prejudice.
We must tirelessly do what we can – not only in our country, but also in the region and on the continent.
The world will not change overnight and there will be set-backs along the way.
This past Friday thousands of people marched the streets of Sao Paulo yesterday to protest the legalisation of so-called “gay conversion” therapy in Brazil after a judge deemed homosexuality to be a “disease”.
But we must never lose hope.
I want to wish Iranti all the very best on many more successful years.
And when the struggle seems to become too hard, never lose hope.
In closing, I want to leave you with a few lines from Come and Hope with Me, a poem by Mongane Wally Serote:
“In that day and in that life,
We lived in dreams and also in desire
We hoped and believed
Even when the day crushed and popped our time
Turning the sky crimson and the night cast upon us
Dark and cold shadows
And the sky, stern, hovered above us
We lived in dreams and hopes
We jumped and danced
And we were aware of the steep and slope of the road
And of the load on our shoulders
We surged forward
Knowing that life is a promise and that that promise is us
The promise lives in the staring eye of a song.”
I thank you.