Following a workshop last week, both government and LGBTI groups have committed themselves to reviving the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development-led National Task Team which was set up to address violence against LGBTI people.
Last month, the task team came under fire from activists on the second anniversary of its formation for having failed to produce any visible results or having any impact on the spate of attacks against LGBTI people.
In a statement, Ingrid Lynch from the Cape Town based Triangle Project said that the two day workshop on 11 and 12 June was an effort to reinvigorate the task team and restart dialogue between government and LGBTI groups.
The meeting was attended by organisations from the LGBTI sector (including GALA, FEW, Triangle Project and OUT), representatives from the South African Human Rights Commission and the Foundation for Human Rights, as well as representatives from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
It was confirmed at the meeting that the task team had been moved from the Directorate of Vulnerable Groups within the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to the department’s Constitutional Development branch.
The participants also discussed unresolved and pending cases involving LGBTI victims, the concerns of civil society organisations and how the task team should proceed.
They agreed on the urgent revival of the task team and the setting up of a rapid response team to react to incidents of violence against LGBTI people.
There was also agreement that public awareness and public education programmes need to be implemented on the issue of LGBTI human rights and hate crimes.
Finally, the participants decided to undertake an audit of LGBTI sensitisation and education material to be used in training programmes for government entities and other role players.
“I feel it is a positive step forward,” Lynch told Mambaonline about the latest developments. She was especially optimistic about the move to house the task team within the department’s Constitutional Development branch.
“It has a strong human rights focus. The individuals there seem committed and aware of the challenges. There’s a willingness to acknowledge these and to try to turn things around. I definitely got that sense,” Lynch said.
She added that during the workshop, the LGBTI groups “emphasised that for the task team to function optimally and have an impact, regular communication and consultation with LGBTI civil society and the sector as a whole must take place”.
Lynch said that, “The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development expressed their commitment to uphold this agreement in order for all role players in the work of the task team to be held accountable”.
She has promised to continue to update the LGBTI community on news about the task team and its activities.
Eugene Brockman, from the Gay Flag of South Africa and one of the people behind a petition calling on the task team to take action, welcomed the news.
“It’s encouraging to see the recent activation of the task team and that they have reacted on most of the requests of the petition forged by Gay Flag SA, Free Gender and Laurie Gaum,” he said.
Brockman urged the task team to clarify how LGBTI communities will be engaged, what its time frames are and who currently constitute the task team.
“Yet again we can only but trust in the good intentions of those involved and offer our support as this is too important to be divisive, but we will be watching closely,” he added.