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Jon Qwelane: Lesbian and gay organisations welcome SAHRC finding on hate speech


December 11, 2008

Jon Qwelane
The Joint Working Group welcomes the much awaited decision of the South African Human Rights Commission to proceed with legal action in relation to the article "Call me names, but gay is not ok" written by Jon Qwelane (Sunday Sun on 20 July, 2008). The Joint Working Group was joined by many other organisations and individuals who urged the SAHRC to act on what we believe was a deeply offensive article. It displayed disrespect and disregard of the human rights and dignity of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI) people in our country. Furthermore, the article constituted hate speech and had the potential to incite violence against gay and lesbian people.

December 10th was International Human Rights Day and on this day we remembered those people within our community who have lost their lives because of hate and those who have suffered greatly as a result of prejudice and violence. December 5th 2008 was the first day of trial of the nine men accused of murdering 19 year old Zoliswa Nkonyana held at the Khayeleitsha Magistrates Court, Western Cape. Nkonyana was murdered in 2006 because she was a lesbian, by a group of men who held the same prejudice and hate that Qwelane gives voice to in his article.

South Africa currently faces a crisis of identity based prejudice and violence targeting not only gay and lesbian people but many other vulnerable groups, articles such as this one actively fuel that crisis. The JWG values and actively supports freedom of expression but our constitution clearly states that freedom of expression does not legitimise hate speech. We also live in a time of political flux and it is vital that at this time we are more focused than ever on the protection of Constitutional rights and that we show no tolerance for hate speech or hate crime.

We wish to acknowledge all those activists who contributed and supported the JWG's call within and outside the LGBTI sector, who through a variety of strategies made clear to the SAHRC that we were not willing to let this matter slip off the table. But we also acknowledge the SAHRC for taking this stance on this matter thereby reaffirming that LGBTI rights are human rights and should be defended as all rights enshrined in the constitution should be. We look forward to working with the commission as they move forward with this matter.

As we celebrated International Human Rights Day we reiterated our call to all South Africans to say no to hate, to demand justice for the victims of hate crime and to strive to move forward to a South Africa free of prejudice and violence. –Issued by JWG


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