Twelve gays and lesbians have been arrested, and allegedly mistreated, after police raided a house party in Vosloorus at 3.30 on Sunday morning.

Most of the people who were arrested had recently returned from Johannesburg after taking part in the annual Joburg Pride festivities.

The police claim that they received complains of loud music from neighbours and when they investigated they were refused entry. They also claim that an officer was allegedly manhandled by the people in the house.

According to the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, however, witnesses said that when police arrived the music had already been switched off.

Witnesses also claimed that the police allegedly used force, including pepper spray, against the party guests as well as on people already sleeping and ‘dragged them out of bed’.

The Equality Project further said that police entered the house without any warning or a warrant.

The twelve have been charged with obstruction of justice and attacking the police; charges that they have denied to both the police and their legal representative from Section 27, Advocate A. Hassim.

“Police told people (in) that party that they did not want lesbians in Vosloorus,” Natasha Vally of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project told SAPA.

Commenting on the incident, Joburg Pride Co-Chair Tanya Harford said that, “Joburg Pride condemns any alleged homophobic behaviour by the authorities and demands that any such behaviour be investigated and dealt with”.

She added: “We do not expect special privileges from the police, but we certainly expect them to respect the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians. The police must be better instructed to understand the dignity and rights of all South Africans as enshrined in our constitution,” she said.

Gauteng police spokesperson Godfrey Maditsi told SAPA that police did know at the time of the arrests that the party was a gay one and denied that the people’s sexuality played any part in their action.

Activists have cited a number ofther homophphics incidents involving the police in the area. Last year following the Ekurhuleni Pride March in Kwa-Thema, eight lesbians reported being attacked by the police because of their sexual orientation.

The Equality Project also reports that on the recent Heritage Day weekend, five lesbians and gay men, who asked the police for directions to the Soweto Pride after-party in Kliptown, were allegedly held hostage, verbally abused and driven around for hours until they agreed to sign an admission of guilt form for drunken driving. Their request to be breathalysed was allegedly declined.

They twelve, aged between 21 and 33 years of age, will appear in the Vosloorus Magistrate’s Court this morning.

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