United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva

The South African government has denied that it does not support a UN joint statement on ending violence and related human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The statement is set to be presented on 21 March to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, where it will be debated and hopefully adopted by the UNHRC.

According to the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project and the Coalition to End Discrimination, South Africa has not endorsed the statement nor given a positive undertaking to do so. The groups claimed that the government had only indicated that it would not lobby against the statement.

But, in a media briefing on Tuesday, the International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister, Marius Fransman, expressed concern about “the misinformation campaign about the role of South Africa with regards to the draft statement…”

He said that the Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador J. Matjila “takes this opportunity to formally inform that South Africa supports ending violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity”.

Fransman added: “South Africa views this issue seriously from the standpoint that the South African Constitution addresses the issue of sexual orientation, especially as one of the grounds of discrimination. It is this Constitutional imperative that obliged South Africa to vote for the inclusion of the references to sexual orientation in resolution related to Extra judiciary Killings, which was adopted recently by the UN General Assembly in New York in December 2010.

“In the light of the importance of this issue, South Africa has decided to take a leading role of proposing an intergovernmental process that will provide a vision to take the issue of sexual orientation forward. This issue is currently being discussed with the African Group to encourage the broad consensus towards an open, inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process that will address the issue directly. South Africa has chosen this approach as a demonstration of its commitment to ending violence against all human beings, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The discussions are still continuing in Geneva and South Africa will not depart from its Constitution. The delegation is seized with the matter,” he said.

Fransman, however, did not directly state that South Africa would in fact sign the statement.

LGBT rights groups have for some time called on the South African government to honour its constitutional obligation to support LGBT equality locally and internationally, and to take a leading position among African states in this regard.

A petition urging South Africa to support the “joint statement on ending violence and related human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity” can be found here.

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