Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Nkoana-Mashabane

African civil society groups have demanded that the South African government sets a date for its promised regional seminar on African LGBTI rights, claiming that it is deliberately delaying the process.

In March, the original text of a speech given by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Nkoana-Mashabane, at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, said that South Africa was “committed to host the African regional seminar focusing on the plight of the LGBTI during the first half of this year…”

Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for the department, later confirmed to Mambaonline South Africa’s intention to host the seminar but was unable to announce any dates for the event at that point.

To-date, with the end of the first half of the year looming, no date or details on progress on hosting the event have been forthcoming.

“The continued delays in convening this seminar raises questions about South Africa’s commitment to leadership on ending violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Ingrid Lynch of The Love, Not Hate campaign.

“We can no longer ignore this on-going crisis in South Africa and the rest of the continent. African states must begin a dialogue on ways to bring this modern expression of inhumanity to an end,” she insisted.

The South African government has deflected criticism of its lack of public commendation of recent draconian anti-gay laws in Uganda and Nigeria by claiming that it is in discussion with these and other African governments behind the scenes and by promising to host the seminar.

In 2011, the UNHRC passed a resolution, sponsored by South Africa and Brazil, condemning violence and discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

As a result of the resolution a report was published by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights documenting discrimination and violence committed against LGBTI people around the world. A series of regional dialogues were then held in other regions of the world, except in Africa, to discuss the findings of the study and make recommendation to solve the crisis.

Despite being behind the process of initiating these regional events and later committing to host the African regional seminar, the South African government has refused to follow through with this commitment, said the organisations.

“South Africa’s seemingly deliberate delay in honouring its commitment to host the regional seminar means that ordinary Africans affected by this kind of violence and discrimination are denied the important opportunity to have their realities discussed and addressed by their States, who have the primary obligation of protecting their citizens from violence and human rights violations,” commented Dawn Cavanagh, of the Coalition of African Lesbians.

“The regional seminars are an important step to forging an international response to this crisis which has real costs in human lives,” added Kene Esom, of the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights.

“South Africa’s failure to convene the African regional seminar is holding up a process that could potentially ensure a comprehensive, context-sensitive international response to ending violence and human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression,” he said.

The groups have launched an online petition calling on the South African Government to set the date for the Regional Seminar. Sign it here.

In April, President Zuma was slammed for saying that “South Africa respects the sovereign rights of other countries,” like Uganda, to pass anti-gay laws.

On Wednesday, Uganda’s anti-gay Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa was unanimously chosen by African countries to become the new President of the UN General Assembly, despite objections from human rights activists and groups.

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