Gay and lesbians affronted by Contralesa

October 31, 2006

Contralesa's attack on the Constitution, the building blocks of a free and democratic society, illustrates a mindset amongst traditional leaders that is stuck in a patriarchal and homophobic past.

Contralesa claims to acknowledge that gay and lesbian people should be treated with dignity however they refer to such people as �oddities� and a �problem� that needs �remedy�. This undermines our dignity and stigmatizes our relationships.

Contralesa states that their stance against same sex marriage does not merit justification. Thuli Madi from Behind the Mask asserts that �this is a convenient cover up for an irrational understanding of homosexuality that fundamentally disrespects and attempts to silence gay and lesbian members of the African community.�

Contralesa believes that our Constitution is a euro-centric import. We believe that African norms and values do support constitutional notions of human dignity, equality and freedom for all people. The fundamental African value of Ubuntu is closely linked to the protection of human dignity. Through Ubuntu the worth of all individuals are recognized and respected. As such, homophobia is an unAfrican because it denies people the opportunity to express their full humanity.

Nonhlanhla Mkhize of the Durban Gay and Lesbian Community and Health Centre says that �instead of calling for rational discussion on same sex relationships Contralesa has chosen to pretend that homosexuality does not exist in African culture and in doing so whitewashes the lived reality of African lesbian and gay people.�

There is ample research illustrating that African people have engaged in same sex relationships throughout our history. For example in Namibia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, bond friendships, ancestral wives, female husbands and male wives have existed for centuries as forms of same-sex relationships. All these relationships were accepted and respected in Africa before colonialism and apartheid.

The proposal to amend the Constitution takes the country a step backward. Melanie Judge of OUT LGBT Well-being urges Contralesa to �rise to the challenge of a plural and diverse society and make peace with the diversity of African experiences. This means honoring rather than rejecting our Constitution.�

True leaders lead with intellect and wisdom and not with ignorance and suppression. We need CONTRALESA to realise that as traditional leaders, they need to ensure that the influence of African Traditional Values is experienced through peaceful development in the modern South Africa. "The Constitution is the epitome of the spirit of Ubuntu - and this is not visible from the Statement to Parliament on Civil Unions by CONTRALESA." said Mkhize. – Issued by The Joint Working Group

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