Editorial | FPB Appeals Tribunal must resign over homophobic ‘Inxeba’ ban

The members of the Film & Publication Board (FPB) Appeals Tribunal must follow in the footsteps of Jacob Zuma and resign after abusing their power to ban Inxeba (The Wound).

In a shock announcement this week, the board said it had changed the film’s earlier 16 LS rating to X18, one usually given to hardcore pornography. This means the film can no longer be screened in mainstream cinemas.

Inxeba has effectively been banned – relegated to the shadow world of “designated adult premises”.

The decision followed an appeal by Contralesa Gauteng and The Man and Boy Foundation who’ve claimed that the film is an attack on Xhosa culture through its depiction of sacred initiation ceremonies.

Whatever one’s thoughts might be about this assertion, it is clear to anyone that has seen Inxeba that the cynical X18 rating is ludicrous. It is an insult to the public at large and the LGBTQ community in particular, which has been starved of authentic stories that explore our lives and experiences.

Inxeba is an important film exactly because it deals with the intersection of masculinity, sexuality, culture and identity. It has been internationally acclaimed, has won over 19 awards around the globe and was South Africa’s official submission to the Academy Awards. The fact that South Africans can no longer see one of the country’s most lauded and significant films is outrageous.

The FPB’s decision to restrict Inxeba’s screening is illegitimate, probably illegal and must be reversed immediately. The move reflects the workings of a body that is increasingly out of kilter with our constitutional values.

The reactionary decision is also, at its heart, homophobic. It doesn’t take much digging to confirm that the real objection to Inxeba is the depiction of same-sex love within the context of traditional culture. The X18 rating further communicates that homosexuality is intrinsically pornographic and shameful.

The board’s decision should come as no surprise. In recent years the FPB, which is tasked with classifying films, games and certain publications, has seemingly become willing to edge out our hard-won freedoms.

In December last year, the FPB shared a fake news story on its social media platforms stating that the LGBTQ community supports pedophilia. The article claimed that the letter “P” had been added to the LGBTQ acronym, representing “Pedosexual”.

The deeply disturbing post was soon deleted following an outcry and the FPB apologised, but the damage was done. Once again, we were painted as violators of children.

It is this seemingly blinding obsession with “protecting children” at any cost that has seen the FPB make a number of dubious homophobic bedfellows.

It has, for example, worked closely with the Family Policy Institute (FPI), a Christian fundamentalist lobby group which is openly anti-LGBTQ and seeks to repeal LGBTQ rights and marriage equality in South Africa.

The FPB has provided support and knowledge to Kenya’s virulently homophobic censors. In March 2016, we reported that the FBP had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) that would see the two parties collaborating.

In a stunning rejection of transparency and openness, the FBP has repeatedly refused to reveal the content of the agreement. What is it hiding? Despite our request, it has also refused to condemn the KFCB’s human rights violations against the LGBTQ community.

The FPB has furthermore been accused of working to become more authoritarian and to expand its oversight over more media, including the internet. The Right2Know campaign has criticised the FPB’s controversial Films and Publications Amendment Bill – also known as the “Internet Censorship Bill” – which the group claims “contains serious censorship clauses and is unconstitutional”.

It is time that the FPB be taken to task for its attacks against all our freedoms, including those of the already beleaguered LGBTQ community. The (FPB) Appeals Tribunal (here are the members’ names) must resign and the body as a whole must reassess its mandate and its expanding powers.

Please sign this petition demanding that the FPB reverse its decision to give Inxeba an X18 rating.

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