Deputy Minister of Justice explains SA not joining LGBTI Coalition

Deputy Minister John Jeffery

Deputy Minister John Jeffery

Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffery says that while South Africa has not yet joined a new international LGBTI rights coalition, it still plans to do so.

As reported by us, questions were asked why Jeffery had spoken at the launch of the Equal Rights Coalition in Uruguay on 13 June in its support but did not join 30 other countries in signing on.

In a statement to Mambaonline, Jeffery denied this represented a lack of commitment on the part of South Africa when it came to LGBTI equality.

“The reason for this is simple: if South Africa is to join the Coalition it will not only touch on the work on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, but also on other Departments in government as well – in particular, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the Department of Home Affairs,” said Jeffery.

“Processes have to be followed before any country can simply join an international coalition and a mandate has to be obtained. We were informed at the end of June that official representatives of the countries that wish to join the Coalition had to be authorized to do so and could then sign the Founding Principles. As I had to speak at the launch of the Coalition on 13 July, there was not sufficient time to conclude these processes.

“Internal discussions will first have to take place before South Africa can formally join the Coalition. I look forward to South Africa joining the Coalition once these processes have been concluded. I did, in my speech to the Conference, make reference to the fact that the necessary formal processes had to be followed before South Africa could join the Coalition so those that were listening should not be unclear as to why South Africa did not join on the spot,” the minister explained. (This was not included in the online text version of the speech.)

Jeffery further insisted that “our commitment to LGBTI rights is unwavering,” noting the work government has done with the National Task Team on LGBTI rights, the establishment of the Rapid Response Team to respond to violent crimes committed against LGBTI persons and the hosting of the first-ever African Regional Seminar on finding Practical Solutions for Addressing Violence and Discrimination Based on SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression) earlier this year. He also pointed out that the government is currently drafting hate crimes legislation.

“Furthermore, the fact that I was given presidential permission to attend the Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference in Montevideo in a month when all MPs are expected to partake in preparations for the elections, shows the importance that the ANC government places on the issue of LGBTI rights,” Jeffery said.

As for South Africa’s controversial and still not satisfactorily explained abstention in the vote to appoint an Independent Expert on LGBTI equality at the UN Human Rights Council, the minister insisted that he addressed this in his speech.

“I explained that whilst we as South Africa have a common understanding on what needs to be done to advance LGBTI rights, the reality is that there are different approaches to dealing with these issues on our continent. The challenge therefore lies therein in finding ways to advance LGBTI rights in a manner that is most effective,” Jeffery said.

He concluded: “South Africa will continue to strive for equal rights that apply to everybody, without exception.”

A copy of Jeffery’s speech at the conference in Montevideo can be read in full here.

In his statement, the minister also objected to the fact that Mambaonline ran its original article before the deadline by which we requested his department’s comment (the end of day Wednesday). This should not have happened and for that we apologise to Minister Jeffery. 

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