South African Human Rights Commission CEO Kayum Ahmed

South African Human Rights Commission CEO Kayum Ahmed (Pic: Leonie Marinovich)

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has confirmed that it is illegal for wedding venues to turn away customers because they are gay or lesbian.

The CEO of the SAHRC, Kayum Ahmed, told Mambaonline on Thursday that the Kilcairn wedding venue’s policy of not hosting same-sex weddings is not acceptable, no matter what the owners’ personal view are.

The Western Cape venue recently turned away a lesbian couple because the owner refused to host same-sex weddings on the premises.

Based on other reports received by Mambaonline, this does not appear to be an isolated incident in the wedding venue business.

Ahmed agreed that many service providers do not seem to understand that they are not allowed to discriminate against anyone under the law.

“It is important to recognise that that the Constitution provides for the right to equality, particularly with respect to race, gender and sexual orientation. To discriminate on any of these grounds is a violation of human rights and of the Constitution and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.”

He added that, “Everyone in South Africa is expected to uphold the values enshrined in the Constitution and the Act – and failure to do so could result in various sanctions being taken against them.”

Ahmed, who spoke to Mambaonline while he was participating in a roundtable dialogue on equality in Soweto, revealed that the SAHRC is looking into the Kilcairn venue’s discriminatory policy, which he described as “sad”.

“We have dealt with similar matters where we’ve found in favour of other gay and lesbian couples,” he said. Ahmed also urged LGBT South Africans who have experienced similar discrimination to lay a complaint with the SAHRC, no matter where they are in the country. (Visit the complaints page of the SAHRC website.)

He noted that while surveys have found that 60% of South Africans are opposed to gay and lesbian relationships, the SAHRC is addressing how to bridge “the gap between people’s beliefs on one hand and the values in the Constitution on the other.”

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