south_africa_still_wont_set_the_date_for_lgbt_rights_seminarThe South Africa government says it’s still committed to hosting the long-delayed LGBT regional summit but it won’t set a date.

“South Africa is planning to hold the African regional seminar focusing on finding practical solutions for violence and discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Nelson Kgwete told the Sunday Times.

“The objective thereof will be to facilitate an open and constructive dialogue on the issue of discrimination and acts of violence against individuals… and generate greater understanding of the root causes of these challenges.”

He added: “It is key to note that the objective of the seminar is not to create new or special rights.”

Detractors claim that granting LGBT people the right to marry or be treated equally under the law equates to granting them “special rights”. Activists, however, generally argue that LGBT equality simply entails extending existing human rights to LGBT people.

The idea of holding LGBT regional summits came about through a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) process initiated by countries including South Africa in 2011.

While summits have since been hosted around the world, Africa remains the only region in which one has not taken place. In March, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Nkoana-Mashabane, told the UNHRC that South Africa was “committed to host the African regional seminar … during the first half of this year…”

Kgwete insisted that South Africa had not been pressured by other African countries to delay or avoid hosting the event, noting that South Africa “conceived and initiated the idea of the regional seminar without pressure from any country, both inside and outside of the African continent.”

Despite this, he was still unable to offer a date on which the seminar will be held.

The patience of LGBT activists on the issue is wearing thing. In June, African civil society groups demanded that the South African government set a date for the seminar, and accused it of deliberately delaying the process.

The groups have launched an online petition calling on the South African government to take action on the matter. Sign it here.

Homosexuality is illegal in 38 African countries. Those found guilty can face severe penalties, including in some cases life imprisonment and even the death penalty.

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