Jon Qwelane’s homophobic column published in the Sunday Sun has been met with an unprecedented backlash.
It’s been confirmed by the Human Rights Commission that it has received numerous complaints from individuals and organisations about the July 20 article by Qwelane.
The commission said that it is considering what action to take, if any, and will make this known shortly.
The Joint Working Group, which represents 24 of South Africa’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organisations, has finally added its voice to the chorus of outrage.
In a media statement, the group said that “The column is filled with vitriolic rhetoric aimed against lesbians and gays. It also promotes the denial of the basic human rights of lesbian and gay people.”
“The Joint Working Group is of the view that the article exceeds the bounds of free speech in terms of the Constitution as it advocates hatred on the grounds of a person’s preference for having relationships with members of the same sex.”
It said that it would immediately lay an official complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission and the Press Ombudsman. It will “also consider all other legal options for taking this matter forward so as to ensure that the poisonous pen of a writer such as Qwelane does not imperil the rights of all LGBTI people in South Africa.”
Meanwhile, it’s been reported that News24, arguably the country’s largest news website, will not publish the article. The website has traditionally re-published the Qwelane column from the Sunday Sun, which belongs to the same Media24 group.
Women24 Editor-in-Chief, Sam Wilson, said that Jannie Momberg, Editor of News24, found the piece “unacceptable.” An insider told Mambaonline that the website is considering not publishing any future editions of the Qwelane column.
The matter is also receiving mainstream media attention with reporters from various publications, including the Sunday Times, Beeld and The Star, working on stories.
A Facebook group, ‘APPALLING homophobia in our midst!!’, has been started and already has 1,426 members.
In addition, Gayspeak reports that a hotel group has ordered all Media24 products to be removed from its rooms and lobbies.
Coenie Kukkuk, from Willemse Benade Venter Davis attorneys, has sent a request to Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), requesting assistance for a civil damages suit (similar to the America’s “class action suit”).
Kukkuk said that funds for the action have already begun pouring in. “It will be a first of its kind in South Africa. Funding from abroad is also being lobbied for this. If LHR will not assist, then other avenues will be pursued, but the suit will be instituted.”
There have also been calls for a boycott of Sunday Sun advertisers, and for suspension of the Qwelane column and the dismissal of Sunday Sun Acting Editor Linda Rulashe.
Mambaonline has been forwarded copies of numerous e-mails sent to Sunday Sun advertisers, including mobile phone network Vodacom (whose advert appeared below the column), protesting their support of the newspaper.
Click to read Mambaonline’s original article on the Qwelane article, including the numerous comments left by readers.