FHR joins Free State LGBTI organisations in celebrating IDAHOT 2015

The 2015 IDAHOT focuses on the dire situation of LGBTI youth

For the first time in history on May 17 2015, Free State joins the world in commemorating the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). Organizations from eight areas in the province will gather in Bloemfontein with activities on the theme LGBTI Youth to ensure the visibility of LGBTI persons and celebrate diversity. The events will draw LGBTI people from 8 areas around the province, including Thabanchu, Botshabelo, Qwaqwa, Welkom, Odendaalrus, Senekal and Heinemann as well as from Bloemfontein.

The aim of the events are to increase the visibility of LGBTI youth with a focus on transgender; to protest against the rights violations of this group and to put an end to ignorance and prejudice in schools, in the workplace and within our communities.

IDAHOT celebrates the declaration of the World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization on 17 May 1999 that homosexuality was no longer classified as an illness. It was therefore launched in 2004, as a global commemoration of that day. The theme of the 2015 IDAHOT is LGBTI youth. Across the globe, countries have planned coordinated events dealing with the right of members of this community to live in a safe environment, where they are free to express their individual personalities and talents. IDAHOT celebrations have already been launched across the globe. In Cuba, Mariela Castro sponsored a symbolic blessing ceremony for gay couples on Saturday to kick off the IDAHOT week. In Bangkok, events leading up to the City Hall being lit in Rainbow colors have begun. Last week, theTrans Murder Monitoring IDAHOT 2015update revealed a total of 1,731 cases of reported killings of Trans and gender-diverse people between 2008 and 2014 while ILGA-Europe released this weekend it’s much awaited2015 updateof the Rainbow Europe report and maps. On Sunday, more than 230 representatives from European institutions, governments and organizations gathered in Montenegro to open the Third International MinisterialIDAHOT 2015 Forumtitled “Ending Hate Crime and Violence” sponsored by the Government of Montenegro. The banning of the recent Pride March in Montenegro for security lessons will certainly be at the center of discussions. And South Africa will join in the commemoration of IDAHOT on Saturday 16 May 2015.

The South African government established the National Task Team on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual and Intersex (LGBTI) people and launched its National Intervention Strategy on Gender and Sexual Orientation- based Violence on 29 April 2014, with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development committing to a three -year plan. The task team was set up both as a direct response to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community as well as to the many petitions, from organizations worldwide, calling upon the South African Government to deal with the cases of violence being perpetrated against LGBTI persons.

The 17 May commemorations in Bloemfontein will focus on issues affecting LGBTI youth in particular on transgender identity, which is complex and little understood. There is an urgent need to educate people at all levels of society on the challenges faced by transgender community. The imposition of a binary notion of gender that admits only male or female identity and prohibits heterogeneity has dire effects on persons who do not fit into these categories. The murder in 2013 of Thapelo Makutle, 24, in the small town of Kuruman, Northern Cape leaves a haunting image of severe mutilation. His genitals were amputated and placed in his mouth, his head virtually severed.

This hate crime has its roots in a society that shuns and bullies those who do not comply with the norm, and this begins at an early age in our schools. In 2014, a 10 year old girl who wore trousers instead of a skirt to a Johannesburg school was allegedly made to strip down to her underwear. The Cosmo City Primary School No 1 pupil was made to wear only her underwear, a school shirt and jersey for the entire day.

Exclusion taken to its extreme may trigger suicide and in June 2014, Mamba Online reported an extreme case of the targeting and abuse of a young man called Tsepo (not his real name) by fellow pupils and their older friends. The report describes attempts to disrobe Tsepo, threaten and shame him about his gender expression. The sad note he left for his mother after taking an overdose of sleeping pills read: “I feel so small. I just want to die and get over this.”

The continued violation and murder of lesbians, transgender women and other members of the LGBTI community make it evident that we can no longer tolerate intolerance and hate crimes. There is a need to ensure that we address impunity.

Although we have taken great steps in ensuring the rights of gender non-conforming people in our Constitution and the equality clause makes it a crime for any violation of the right to be different, violations against this community continue. The FHR, in partnership with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD) and the European Union (EU) has initiated Socio Economic Justice for All (SEJA) also known as Amarightza a new programme that focusses on the promotion and protection of socio- economic rights. It targets the marginalized and vulnerable groups and seeks to ensure their participation in the decisions that affect their lives. This group includes members of the LGBTI community who suffer the trials of prejudice, stigmatization and intolerance despite the constitutional rights they enjoy.

The activities commemorating IDAHOT are directly in key with SEJA’s aims. These include ensuring that all South Africans, including leaders, government officials and civil servants as well as the public are educated about the issues affecting the lives of young members of the LGBTI community especially with regard to enjoying their socio- economic rights .

It is up to all of us to ensure that the school community respects gender pronouns and that gym classes shouldn’t be segregated on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. All across the world, people are struggling with these issues. Underneath, we all have the same skin and it’s about our humanity. People need to be educated, but the State needs to take responsibility with action when people cross the line. Yasmin Sooka Executive Director of FHR said: ‘We have the possibility to transform our society, but it starts with ensuring that at the level of schools, learners learn to normalize difference and the right to be different,’ she concluded.

IDAHOT events in Free State will take place from 16 May 2015 – 17 May 2015.

Issues affecting young members of the LGBTI community are highlighted across the world, for the first time in history, the Free State will be organizing IDAHOT activities in Bloemfontein. These activities will take place on 16 May 2015 given the fact that the 17th May is on a Sunday.

A Flash mob by members of the LGBTI community and supporters at Hoffman Square, Bloemfontein’s CBD from 13p.m to 14.p.m. The flash mob will take the form of dance with LGBTI supporters and members of the LGBTI community and the Bloemfontein Jenwebber Association of People with Disability. The aim is to enhance the visibility of people with diversity. Individual artists will join in the celebration.

On the same day starting at 15h00 to 17h00 a seminar on Homophobia and Transphobia at the MUCPP clinic in Sengonzo Street, Phelandaba in Bloemfontein. Speakers are drawn from a diverse range of organizations. A recently transitioned transgender person will share his experience and brief the seminar on the accessibility of the medical service for Transgender persons.

The organizations involved in these events include: Free State Rainbow Seeds, Free State LAGO, Gaybian CUT, National Health LGBTI Campaign- Bloemfontein and Out@Kovsies, working in collaboration with the Foundation for Human Rights LGBTI Project.

For more information please contact

1. Zanele Thela - Out@Kovsies @0820486581

2. Zenny Kgolokwane – FS Rainbow Seeds@ 0788101784

Virginia Magwaza- FHR LGBTI Project Officer-@072 818 2277