Shame on SA's failure to support international human rights process!

July 25, 2007

On Friday, 20 July, the South African delegation to the UN Economic and Social Council [ECOSOC] chose to abstain in a vote on whether or not to recognise two international NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to represent lesbian and gay interests on this international forum.

As such, South Africa has reneged on its responsibility to provide political leadership in keeping with our own progressive, legal framework that recognises, respects and seeks to fulfil the full rights of LGBTI people.

In line with its July 2006 abstention on the same issue, South Africa yet again abstained in the final vote. This abstention came in the face of a special appeal by the Joint Working Group (JWG) to the Minister and Deputy Minister or Foreign Affairs, amongst others, to exercise moral courage in making and acting on the decision about how to vote on this critical matter. As such, instead of signaling a clear message in support of fairness and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, South Africa sat on the fence. In this instance, fence-sitting is tantamount to turning a blind eye to ongoing human rights abuses on the grounds of sexual orientation throughout the world.

The JWG welcomes the fact that, despite South Africa�s abstention, the two NGOs were granted accreditation as they address important human rights issues and it is critical that they have a voice at the United Nations. This is even more pressing in the context of human rights violations committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including in our own country. We commend Guinea-Bissau for taking a stand and voting in support of the NGOs. However we as South Africans have been failed by our government as we believe that no rational or convincing reasons were provided to support South Africa�s position. As a country we have been shamed by the choice of policy makers and we can claim no part of this important victory for advancing the rights of the severely marginalised LGBTI community nationally and internationally. This marks a sad point in our democracy.

In light of the brutal murders in Soweto two weeks ago, of two lesbian women – both human rights defenders – and a list of other crimes of rape and murders against LGBTI people in this country, the decision to abstain is even more puzzling and outrageous. Lesbian women and gay men continue to die in South Africa, as a result of hate crimes. Are our leaders going to �abstain� on this matter too?

We need bold leadership nationally and internationally, against all forms of discrimination, and our government should not cower away from its human rights obligations.

South Africa must hold up a counter-weight to other countries who continue to persecute, imprison, torture and execute lesbian and gay people purely on the basis of their sexual orientation. We, the JWG, call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the South African delegation to the United Nations to issue a public statement explaining their stance and to meet with the LGBTI sector as a matter of urgency to initiate a dialogue on this and related issues facing our communities. – Issued by The Joint Working Group

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  • The Joint Working Group is a national network of LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] organizations and partners. It's vision is to strengthen the organized LGBTI sector and to maximize it's response to LGBTI people�s needs through partnerships, collective use of resources, and by drawing on the strengths of participating organizations in contributing towards social justice and the reconstruction and development of South African society.



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