Ramaphosa’s empty words to LGBTQI+ community: “I am with you”


President Cyril Ramaphosa used his Human Rights Day speech to condemn LGBTQI+ hate crimes and affirm his support for the queer community. But is it all just empty talk?

Speaking in the town of Koster in the North West Province on Monday, Ramaphosa lauded the Constitution’s promise of equality for all South Africans. This, he asserted, includes LGBTQI+ people.

“In exercising our rights, we must also as South Africans reject discrimination and hate crimes that are perpetrated by some amongst us against those who pursue a sexual orientation life [sic] and on the basis of gender identity. We must condemn these acts of violence, of homophobia as well as of transphobia,” said the president.

“We need to ensure that we act against those forms of violence. We must be clear about that. And we would like to say [to] the LGBTQI+ community, I’d like to say to them, [that] they are not alone. You are not alone and we will walk this journey with you.”

Ramaphosa continued: “We are with you. And I am with you as well. The struggle for an end to violence, to discrimination and to hate against the LGBTQI+ community must end and it must end now.

“So when you attack a woman, when you kill a woman, when you violate the sexual rights of a woman and when you attack the LGBTQI+ community, just know that you are essentially attacking the values of the South African state and the South African people and we will not allow that,” said the president.

It’s not the first time that President Ramaphosa has condemned hate crimes against the LGBTQI+ community. And while it’s commendable that the head of state has been vocal on the issue, many would dismiss his latest comments as little more than well-intentioned rhetoric.

There is growing frustration in the LGBTQI+ community (and the rest of South Africa) that the government’s promises are rarely followed by any sense of urgency or effective implementation.

Earlier this month, Pinky Shongwe, a 32-year old lesbian woman, was stabbed to death in Durban, reportedly because she rejected a man’s romantic advances. Her killing follows last’s year’s queer bloodbath in which at least 24 LGBTQI+ individuals were brutally murdered across the country.

State officials, however, continue to rehash the same strategies that have failed to have an impact for more than a decade. Meanwhile, the government excludes queer people and the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill – which was first published in 2016 – languishes in the legislature.

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