Jon Qwelane

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) met with LGBT organisations today to discuss the way forward in its case against journalist Jon Qwelane over his 2008 anti-gay article.

Representatives from the Joint Working Group, People Opposing Women Abuse, Behind the Mask and Joburg Pride met with the commission’s legal team, which reaffirmed its commitment to actively pursue the case.

The HRC said that it saw the Qwelane case as an important opportunity to have the courts define the meaning of hate speech.

The community representatives agreed that they believed that the HRC should not only demand an unconditional apology from Qwelane, but also pursue damages from the publishers which, if awarded, would be allocated towards a worthy LGBT cause.

Suggestions that the HRC ask the court that Qwelane perform community service if found guilty of hate speech were also made by some of the representatives.

The HRC made it clear that while it would consult with LGBT stakeholders it would have to come to its own conclusions with regard to the case.

It also asked the organisations to consider filing “friends of the court” briefs to support the case.

The HRC said that it would be now begin the paperwork process of filing the case with the Equality Court.

Qwelane’s July 2008 article, titled Call me names, but gay is NOT okay…, published by the Sunday Sun, equated homosexuality with bestiality, praised Robert Mugabe’s oppression of gays and lesbians and encouraged the removal of the sexual-orientation equality clause from the constitution.

In a statement issued in December, the HRC said it believed that “the language used by Mr Qwelane is not consistent with the spirit and values of the constitution, and it’s hurtful at the least.”

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