Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

The DA says that the South African government must end its ‘quiet diplomacy’ on LGBT rights and speak out against Nigeria’s shocking new anti-gay law.

MP Bill Eloff, the DA Shadow Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, intends to write to the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, requesting clarity on the government’s position on the legislation.

He will also raise the matter with the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of International Relations and Cooperation, Hargreaves Magama, and request that the matter be added to the portfolio committee agenda at the soonest opportunity.

“Minsiter Nkoana-Mashabane should clarify when she intends to publicly raise this matter, whether she intends to add it to the AU’s agenda, and most importantly, whether the government will condemn such moves in the continent, and in other countries internationally,” said Eloff in a statement.

“The South African government can no longer remain silent while lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights are under attack and infringed upon in Nigeria and other countries around the world,” he added.

While South Africa has been applauded for backing and at times initiating moves at the United Nations in support of LGBT equality, the country has avoided direct or public criticism of anti-gay legislation in Africa and around the world.

South Africa, has for example, still not commented on a similar law passed by Uganda’s Parliament last year or Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law.

To add insult to injury, defiantly homophobic former journalist Jon Qwelane was given the post of South Africa’s high commissioner in Uganda, despite still facing anti-gay hate speech charges back home.

In 2010, President Zuma told Parliament, in connection with the arrest of two LGBT people in Malawi, that the government had taken a diplomatic and non-public approach to such matters, stating that “We have condemned the action to arrest people in terms of our constitution of this country…”

“We need to persuade, we need to make people understand, we need to move with them. We have never adopted a confrontational stance on matters,” he said.

Eloff, however, dismissed this strategy, insisting that this “‘quiet diplomacy’ must be brought to an end, and we must continue to ensure that human rights are maintained as one of the key pillars of our foreign policy.

“As a leader on the continent, we must in particular take a stand on the shocking move taken by a number of states in Africa to clamp down on gay rights,” he said.

“In 1996, former President Nelson Mandela made it clear that human rights are central to South Africa’s foreign policy. This is inspired by our Constitution, and the bill of rights it enshrines. We cannot afford to let this be watered down by silence,” Eloff added.

The new Nigerian law outlaws same-sex marriages, same-sex relationships, public same-sex affection and LGBT clubs or organisations; with prison sentences of up to 14 years. People who witness or aid a same-sex marriage and anyone who does not report LGBT people to the authorities also face jail time. Gay sex is already illegal with a penalty of 14 years in prison.

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