The Joburg Pride board has condemned Jon Qwelane’s recent homophobic column in a media statement and laid a complaint with the Press Ombudsman.
The article, titled Call me names, but gay is NOT okay…, was published in the Sunday Sun on 20 July.
The column is accompanied by a cartoon which depicts a man and goat kneeling before a church official as they are pronounced ‘man and goat.’
“This equates the practise of homosexuality to bestiality – a gross inaccuracy that helps fuel misunderstandings of homosexuality by the public,” said the board.
In addition to linking bestiality with homosexuality in the piece, Qwelane also urges politicians to remove the sexual orientation equality clause in the constitution and praises Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s oppression of gays and lesbians in that country.
The board called for the Sunday Sun “to publish a withdrawal of the column and to make a public apology to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community of South Africa.”
“While we accept that Mr Qwelane is entitled to his personal opinion, we feel that the publication of the column amounts to hate speech and can only serve to incite further violence against the LGBT community,” said joint chairperson Zak Mbhele.
“LGBT South Africans experience regular discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation, and this can take the form of violence.”
South Africa still has a high incidence of hate crimes perpetrated against members of the gay community, noted Mbhele, and when a public figure such as Jon Qwelane is permitted to share his rantings this can incite further violence.
“The publication of this piece by the Sunday Sun is irresponsible and inflammatory,” said Mbhele, “and the newspaper needs to take a long hard look at its editorial policy if it currently views such comment as acceptable.”
The column has resulted in an unprecedented response from the LGBT community. Mambaonline has received numerous e-mails, including copies of complaints to the Press Ombudsman, from members of the community outraged at Qwelane’s and the Sunday Sun’s homophobia.