Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

It appears that the South African government is planning to host a potentially ground-breaking regional seminar on the rights of African gay people this year.

The country has been widely criticised for not condemning the recent anti-gay laws passed in Uganda and Nigeria, or for that matter any of the 37 African countries that criminalise homosexuality.

At the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva last week, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, spoke about South Africa’s commitment to human rights ahead of the 20th anniversary of the country’s democracy.

According to the department, her “statement covered contemporary issues facing the international human rights system and the agenda of the Human Rights Council.”

It was glaringly noticeable that in her list of global human rights concerns, she once again failed to mention the status of LGBT rights on the continent.

According to reports, however, Nkoana-Mashabane left out a significant pre-written comment on the issue from her speech.

In the written version she said that: “South Africa is committed to host the African regional seminar focusing on the plight of the LGBTI during the first half of this year, mindful that this challenge is a global challenge that is widespread far beyond South Africa and the African continent.”

Clayson Monyela, Spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, told Mambaonline that this line was indeed in the original speech but was left out when it was delivered by the minister due to time constraints.

He confirmed South Africa’s intention to host the LGBTI seminar but was unable to announce any dates for the event at this point.

Last week, six South African LGBTI groups gave their support to the country’s policy of behind the scenes diplomacy on the issue of LGBTI rights.

“Further public pressure from the South African Government might have the negative effect of further polarisation and hardening of attitudes,” they said.

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