Despite repeated promises to end its transphobia, the Department of Home Affairs is once again accused of discriminating against a transgender woman.
News24 reports that the department’s latest LGBT victim is 36-year-old Juanita van Zyl, who attempted to apply to change her gender in her identify document at the Centurion branch on Wednesday.
Van Zyl said that she was addressed as “sir” by officials and was repeatedly questioned and humiliated about her gender in front of other members of the public.
She was also incorrectly told that she needed a stamp on her medical documents and was turned away.
Sibusiso Kheswa, Director of transgender organisation Gender Dynamix, confirmed to News24 that “a stamp is not a requirement” and slammed the Department of Home Affairs for not having a consistent policy on the issue of gender change.
A tearful Van Zyl said she believes that the demand for a stamp was simply an excuse to deny her service. “When I got to my car, I broke [down]…” she said, adding that the experience “felt like an interrogation.”
Van Zyl plans to return to Home Affairs in another effort to be recognised according to her gender identity once she had drummed up the courage to do so. “There’s so much difficulty on this journey,” she added.
Despite South Africa’s progressive legislation, Home Affairs officials have been repeatedly accused of breaking the law and refusing to provide services to LGBT people.
This includes regularly refusing to change the gender of transgender people in their identity documents, humiliating a gay couple at an airport, and in some offices refusing to officiate same-sex marriages.
In October last year, Nadia Swanepoel from Florida, Johannesburg was forced to embark on a hunger strike to protest against Home Affairs’ three year delay in correcting her ID. Only after risking her life and embarrassing the department in the media did she win her battle for equality.
In a January 2015 briefing document, Gender DynamiX and the Legal Resources Centre reported that many gender change applications are rejected by Home Affairs unless proof of gender reassignment surgery is submitted.
Some couples have even been forced to get divorced before documents are amended and the process can drag on for up to seven years.
Without an accurate ID, a person is unable to access services and enter into contracts such as bank accounts, rental agreements, loan contracts, opening a hospital file, updating a driving licence and most importantly a person is denied their right to vote.