Another gay community organisation has expressed serious concerns about the government’s public hearings on the controversial Civil Union Bill.
Triangle Project, the country’s oldest LGBT rights organisation, today issued a statement about its participation in the Cape Town public hearing on 9 October regarding the Department of Home Affairs’ proposed Civil Union Bill. This was the last of the public hearings on the bill following similar hearings in Soweto, Welkom, Umtata, Ulundi and Rustenburg – most of which have been characterised as chaotic and disorganised.
The Civil Union Bill, which aims to legalise same-sex unions, is being opposed by most LGBT groups because it proposes legislation which will create a separate kind of “gay marriage”, instead of same-sex relationships being accommodated within the existing Marriage Act.
Triangle Project said that it felt compelled to “highlight our concern at the disregard for the dignity and esteem of the gay and lesbian community displayed during this process” and that, “we express our deep concern at the level of prejudice that gay and lesbian people were exposed to at the meeting.”
The organisation expressed shock at the fact that religious fundamentalist groups repeatedly referred to gay and lesbian people in derogatory and insulting terms, either directly or indirectly. According to Triangle, members of the 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 prophesised 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”, said Triangle.
The statement goes on to bemoan the fact that many speakers “postulated their blatant ignorance of sexual orientation as fact without being challenged by the Chairperson”, and that 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,” added the organisation.
Triangle Project said that, “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 berate the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs for not protecting gay and lesbian people from exposure to such blatant prejudice.”
More public submissions regarding the Civil Union Bill are expected to take place in parliament in the coming week.