No sanctions but Gretha Wiid agrees to amend homophobic books

Gretha Wiid

The SA Human Rights Commission has released its controversial settlement agreement with author and lay preacher, Gretha Wiid, who warned children they could become gay because of an absent father or molestation.

The agreement between the two parties, and on behalf of more than 70 complainants, sees no sanctions or penalties imposed on the “relationship expert”.

Wiid was accused of homophobic hate speech by writing in books aimed at teenagers that homosexuality could be caused by a lack of a father figure, or through sexual abuse, and could be prevented. She also hosted workshops and talks to schoolchildren in which she espoused these views.

The agreement, which was signed on Wednesday, acknowledges both Wiid’s “rights to freedom of religion and of expression” and that “no-one may unfairly discriminate against or propagate hate speech toward members of the LGBTQI community.”

Wiid says in the document that by “holding the religious views that she does, and in expressing them in the publication and the workshops, she had no intention to discriminate against, demean, degrade , hurt or harm any member of the LGBTQI community.”

She further “acknowledges that, although unintended, the publication and the workshops caused the complainants and certain members of the LGBTQI community to feel discriminated against, demeaned, degraded, hurt and/or harmed. She apologises to those persons who were so affected.”

Wiid agreed that future copies of her books will be amended so that they no longer include the word “moffie”, do not reference the belief that an absent father or abuse ’cause’ homosexuality nor the idea that if homosexual feelings are not dealt with in time in young people, it will be “too late.”

Instead, the offensive passages will be much more LGBTQI affirming, while still stating that “God’s views on homosexuality is something which many people argue and fight about.” The text will also strengthen the call to not bully or shame anyone who is “different.”

The books will now state: “If you feel that you are struggling and experience confusion with your own sexuality, it is important to speak to someone you trust for guidance and support. Love yourself and your future enough to talk to someone. Guidance and support from a wise adult whom you trust, or your parents and councillors can be of great help when you feel uncertain and lonely!”

Wiid also agreed to take reasonable steps to avoid the distribution of older editions of the books and to in future not write or “or cause to be published other texts for distribution to children that include any passages that suggest that homosexuality is (a) a result of sexual abuse or parental neglect; (b) a practice that should be eschewed ; or (c) depraved or worthy of censure.”

As for her workshops, Wiid undertook to “not to raise the subject of homosexuality” and that if the subject is raised she will “suggest that the topic is outside the remit of the workshop and is best dealt with in another forum.”

If the discussion nevertheless persists, she will “deal with it in a manner that respects the rights to dignity and equality of members of the LGBTIQ community, and to refrain from in any way suggesting that homosexuality is (a) a result of sexual abuse or parental neglect; (b). a practice that should be eschewed ; or (c) depraved or worthy of censure.”

Last year, the SAHRC received approximately 77 complaints regarding Wiid’s books. Many in the LGBTQ community were alarmed that the books offered inaccurate and dangerous information that could negatively affect young LGBTQ people and their families.

At least one of the complainants against Wiid – represented by attorney Coenie Kukkuk – has criticised the SAHRC for not consulting with or advising her on its plans to settle the matter with the author. Mambaonline has received other similar complaints. The commission has, however, insisted that it sent the complainants draft versions of the agreement for their feedback.

The furious complainant, who has asked not to be identified, told Mambaonline that she believes that the agreement is “unacceptable”.

“Apart from a weakly worded ‘apology’, the settlement contains no remedy for the parties that she has injured with her hate speech,” said the woman. “There is no acknowledgement that the statements in her booklets amount to hate speech, or that she even recognises or realises that ‘preachers’ such as herself are responsible for the high incidence of suicide amongst LBGTQI youth. There is no remedy contained in the statement, for example such an undertaking to donate some of her profits she made with the selling of her ‘booklet’ to shelters for LBGTQI youth. The statement does not even contain a reprimand of her despicable behaviour by the SAHRC.”

The woman added: “It is time that strong action be taken against those who profit from religion. It is regrettable that the SAHRC has missed an opportunity to do so.”

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