LGBT people protest in Johannesburg last year against traditional leaders' efforts to restrict LGBT rights.

LGBT people protest in Johannesburg last year against traditional leaders’ efforts to restrict LGBT rights.

Despite a majority of South African provinces rejecting the controversial and potentially homophobic Traditional Courts Bill, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) refuses to dump it.

SAPA reported on Tuesday that the bill has been rejected by the provincial legislatures of Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, North West, and Limpopo.

However, the NCOP’s select committee on security and constitutional development is still not convinced and says it needs absolute confirmation from all provinces of their position on the matter.

“We would want to have a clear, clear mandate. We don’t want a mandate that makes us to be suspicious of whether you are for or against,” said acting chairperson Matome Mokgobi.

According to SAPA the Free State and Northern Cape are in favour of the bill, while KwaZulu-Natal’s position remains unclear.

“To refer it back to the provinces is a very slimy way of avoiding the fact that the provinces have rejected this bill,” said Aninka Claassens from the UCT Centre for Law and Society.

The bill, if passed, would create a parallel system of justice in which traditional leaders in rural areas would be able to unilaterally decide on certain matters and hand out punishments on the basis of traditional and cultural law.

Activists have expressed deep concern that granting broad powers to traditional leaders and chiefs through the bill could lead to discriminatory actions and rulings against gay and lesbian people and women in general.

Official bodies representing traditional leaders, including the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) and the House of Traditional Leaders, have in the past expressed anti-gay sentiments and have even called for LGBT equality to be removed from the Constitution.

In a recent, more promising move, however, a representative from the House of Traditional Leaders spoke on gay and lesbian issues at a meeting of the National Task Team on Violence Against LGBTI Persons in Pretoria last month. The representative delivered a presentation “on forging a partnership with the National Task Team”.

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