LGBT and human rights groups from around the country say they’re concerned about the lack of communication from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ & CD) on the status of the Hate Crimes Task Team.
In May 2011, following outrage over a wave of rapes and murders of lesbian and gay people in South Africa, officials from the department announced the creation of the special Task Team that was to address homophobic and transphobic violence.
By all accounts, in its two years of existence the Task Team has failed to produce any visible results or have any impact on the ongoing attacks against LGBT people. This despite the government trumpeting the Task Team internationally as a success.
On Tuesday, Triangle Project in Cape Town, OUT in Pretoria, GALA and FEW in Johannesburg and Professor Juan Nel from the UNISA Department of Psychology, as well the New York based Human Rights Watch, wrote an open letter to the DoJ & CD requesting an update on “the progress of the Task Team in achieving its objectives” and asking for “a clear plan of action for the work that lies ahead”.
The groups noted that the “legitimacy of the Task Team continues to be questioned by civil society and LGBTI communities” and said that they are “deeply concerned about the lack of government communication regarding the status of the Task Team and the implications this has for implementing an effective response to address gender- and sexual orientation-based violence against LGBTI persons”.
They went on to ask the department to provide an overview of the activities and campaigns the Task Team has actually engaged in since May 2011.
The groups said that when it was established the government led Task Team requested that LGBT organisations submit unresolved hate crimes cases to it. The groups noted that “we have not received information on what actions were undertaken by the DoJ & CD in relation to these cases”.
They further queried what happened to a bus, taxi and billboard hate crime awareness campaign that the Government Communication and Information System was tasked with undertaking last year by the Task Team. “Have any activities taken place related to this since June 2012?” the groups asked.
The activists also questioned what came of the DoJ & CD’s commitment to appoint a project manager and a project officer to the Task Team in order to strengthen its capacity. “Were these personnel appointed? If they were, how have they contributed in furthering the objectives of the Task Team?” asked the groups.
They affirmed that while they saw value in “effective collaborative work with government departments to address gender- and sexual orientation-based violence against LGBTI persons… an effective response requires commitment and decisive action”.
The groups concluded by calling on the department “to provide a clear plan of action to this end”.
The letter to the DoJ & CD came on the heels of another set of Cape Town based LGBT activists also demanding answers from the Task Team. On Tuesday, they launched a petition calling for the Task Team to explain what it had accomplished over the last two years.
The petition can be found here.