John Qwelane's homophobia 'appalling'

November 22, 2006

JOHANNESBURG — Gays for Equitable Media (GEM) finds it regrettable that veteran journalist John Qwelane continues to use his column in the Sunday Sun (republished on News24) to expound his homophobic views.

In a recent piece, titled “Going to the Dogs”, which largely deals with the Jackie Selebi controversy, Qwelane also writes about the passing of the Civil Union Act (which legalised same-sex marriage), saying that, “Something is rotten in this country, seriously stinking.” He refers to the new legislation as the “stabani Act”, and slams the Constitutional Court for wanting “to make this country the “trahssie” capital of Africa.”

In addition to his bigoted opinions, the use of the words “stabani” (a derogatory term for gay) and “trahssie” (derogatory term for an inter-sexed person) are particularly repulsive.

In the same way that there are certain offensive terms referring to race, gender and culture which legitimate media would not use, GEM believes that these words are also unacceptable: expressing naked contempt and hatred for lesbian, gay and transgender people.

Liesl Theron, CEO of Gender DynamiX, currently the only organisation in Africa for transgender people, responded to the piece with alarm: “I think it is utterly appalling to allow such hate speech in mainstream (or any other) media,” she says.

Ironically, the article was republished on News24 on November 20; the same day as international Transgender Day of Remembrance which aims to remember those who have been killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice around the world.

Robert Hamblin, Gender DynamiX Media Liaison, described Qwelane’s article as “irresponsible journalism.” He went on warn that the article – written by a prominent community leader and journalist like Qwelane – could well lead to attacks on transgender and gay people.

Qwelane has a history of homophobic statements. In October this year he described gays as “unnatural” in his column. While he oddly enough wrote in the piece that “I like homosexuals”, he added that if his son or daughter came out as gay that, “YES, I would condemn and disown them if they turned out to be homosexuals.”

“It remains a tragic enigma as to why a journalist who played a role in South Africa’s struggle for liberation seems to have an irrational hatred for a group of people who have historically been oppressed simply because of who they are”, says GEM board member Luiz DeBarros. “Why Qwelane sees granting lesbians and gays the same rights as everyone else as some kind of threat is indeed perplexing”, he says.

GEM calls on the media to refrain from using terms derogatory to lesbian, gay and transgender people – even in opinion pieces such as Qwelane’s. GEM further requests that the Sunday Sun and News24 offer an apology for publishing these offensive terms. – Issued by GEM

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