Following our participation in the public hearing regarding the Department of Home Affairs proposed Civil Union Bill in Cape Town on 9 October, Triangle Project is compelled to highlight our concern at the disregard for the dignity and esteem of the gay and lesbian community displayed during this process. This was the last of the public hearings following similar hearings in Soweto, Welkom, Umtata, Ulundi and Rustenburg.
While we commend the concept of public hearings, we express our deep concern at the level of prejudice that gay and lesbian people were exposed to at the meeting.
Religious fundamentalist groups repeatedly referred to gay and lesbian people in derogatory and insulting terms, either directly or indirectly. Members of the already marginalized gay and lesbian community were repeatedly associated with moral degeneration, were told that they are unnatural; sexual orientation was described as being a matter of choice and one speaker prophesized that allowing same-sex civil marriage would result in natural disasters befalling the country. Black gay and lesbian people were insulted by being described as un-African and gay and lesbian parents were offended by statements that they were incapable of effectively raising children.
Many speakers postulated their blatant ignorance of sexual orientation as fact without being challenged by the Chairperson and derogatory and insulting statements were freely allowed. It is particularly disconcerting that the Chairperson appeared oblivious to the extent of virulent prejudice that was being articulated.
Several gay and lesbian people attending the hearing had to leave the venue for brief periods during the presentations as they felt extremely distressed by some submissions. We have received calls from people present at the meeting of feeling depressed, vulnerable and traumatized. In response, we are offering face-to-face counselling by our team of gay psychologists and social workers, and telephonic counselling via the Gay & Lesbian Helpline.
We berate the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs for not protecting gay and lesbian people from exposure to such blatant prejudice and for failing to offer the necessary counselling and support services to individuals who were traumatized as a result of such exposure.
The Gay & Lesbian Helpline is operational daily between 1pm and 9pm on (021) 4 222 500. People needing face-to-face counselling can make an appointment by calling (021) 448 3812.
Issued by: Triangle Project, Waverley Business Park, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Telephone (021) 448 3812; www.triangle.org.za
Contact: Glenn de Swardt (021) 448-3812