SA's UN Ambassador diminishes sexual orientation

25 June, 2010

The Ambassador of South Africa Mr. Jerry Matthews Matjila and the Ambassador of the United States of America, Ms. Betty E. King - Photo: Eric Bridiers
GENEVA— South Africa's representative at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Jerry Matjila, in contradiction to the South African Constitution, has refused to accept sexual orientation as an equally valuable component of human identity along with race.

Jerry Matjila remarked that to protect gays, "demeans the legitimate plight of the victims of racism". The context of these remarks was the discussion of the UN Human Rights Council discussion of the Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (pdf) by Kenya's Githu Muigai. Section A, Paragraph 13 reads:

The identity of an individual is not solely related to the national identity of his or her country. The Special Rapporteur would like to stress that the identity of each individual is made up of a multitude of components, such as gender, age, nationality, profession, sexual orientation, political opinion, religious affiliation and social origin. These components may in turn be multiple since individuals may have several nationalities or several professions, for instance. It is therefore important not to fall into the trap of defining identity on the grounds of one element alone and putting individuals into a single category. The fact that an individual is identified as a national of one State should in no way prevent him or her from also identifying himself or herself with other ethnic or national origins. National identity should therefore not be defined in an absolute or reductive way that compels individuals to choose sides or to organize the different components of their identity into a hierarchy.

According to the Cape Times:

South Africa has dismayed human rights champions by refusing to support efforts at the United Nations to protect the gay community against discrimination.

South Africa's representative at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Jerry Matjila, said that to protect gays,"demeans the legitimate plight of the victims of racism"...

Matjila said the World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in Durban in 2001 had shown that "the victims of scourges were clearly identified after difficult and prolonged negotiations".

These victims were clearly listed in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) at the summit, and victims of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation were not among them.

He said: "South Africa disagrees with the inclusion of victims implicitly or explicitly, other than those listed in the DDPA."

John Fisher, co-director of ARC International, an NGO which advocates the protection of gay rights, said: "South Africa hit a new low on Tuesday during discussions at the UN Human Rights Council."

The Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution includes "sexual orientation". – This article is from African Activist - amplifying Africa's LGBTI voices

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