A transgender woman who was turned away by officials at a Home Affairs branch can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Juanita van Zyl, 36, recently unsuccessfully tried to apply to change her gender in her identify document at the Centurion branch.
She was horrified when she was humiliated, publicly questioned about her gender, called “sir” by officials and incorrectly told she needed a stamp on her medical documents.
Van Zyl told News24 that after reading about her experience, Benjamin Khoza, a director in one of the department’s call centres, contacted her and personally went to her office to collect her application.
“He was brilliant,” said a very happy Van Zyl.
She noted, however: “This [application for ID gender change] doesn’t mean my battle is over but it’s a hurdle I just stepped over.”
Unfortunately, it appears that it often takes the glare of media exposure for Home Affairs to do its job when it comes to the LGBT community.
In October last year, Nadia Swanepoel from Florida, Johannesburg was forced to embark on a hunger strike to protest against the department’s 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 January, Gender DynamiX and the Legal Resources Centre reported that many gender change applicants face unacceptable delays and refusal of service from Home Affairs, which does not appear to have a consistent policy on the issue.
Applications are often rejected by the department 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.