On the second anniversary of its much-hyped formation, activists are demanding that the government-led LGBTI hate crimes task team actually does something.
In May 2011, following growing outrage over a wave of rapes and murders of lesbian and gay people in South Africa, officials from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development announced the creation of a special hate crimes task team.
This “historic” entity was to consist of government departments, independent bodies and civil society groups and was to address homophobic and transphobic violence.
Technically the “Gender and Sexual Orientation based Violence Task Team,” it has to date failed to produce any significant results.
Some activists previously labelled the team as a government public relations exercise meant to avoid international embarrassment on the issue.
Since its formation, the team has spent years wrangling over its ‘terms of reference’, which are meant to define its role. Sources told Mambaonline that these have still not been formalised or signed.
Last year July, the Department of Justice told Mambaonline that while it previously had little capacity, funds had been set aside to employ staff for the task team and that the recruitment process had been initiated.
While a project manager and a project officer were meant to be employed, it remains unclear if this ever happened. Activists from NGOs who are meant to work with the task team told Mambaonline this week that they have yet to meet these officials and don’t even know if they exist.
Now a group of Cape Town based activists, consisting of the Gay Flag of South Africa, Funeka Soldaat of Free Gender (a lesbian ‘corrective’ rape NPO) and Laurie Gaum (an LGBTI spiritual leader), says it has had enough.
The activists point out that the task team has never released a statement on any major LGBTI issue, homophobic attack, rape or murder; has never published a public progress or status report since its formation; and has never attended any LGBTI protests, hate crime court cases or pride events.
They have created a petition that demands that the task team set up channels of communication to LGBTI South Africans and that it publish points of access for victims of homophobic violence.
They activists have also insisted that the team publish reports on its progress and actions taken and, as originally promised, collect information on issues and incidents from LGBTI communities for it to take action on.
The petition can be found here.
Mambaonline has learned that another group of LGBTI community groups and NGOs are writing to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development today requesting that it provide information on the status of the task team.