Ramaphosa urged to address LGBTI+ issues in SONA


President Cyril Ramaphosa (Pic: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com)

LGBTI+ group Iranti says that President Cyril Ramaphosa should address issues facing the LGBTI+ community in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday.

The theme for this year’s SONA is, “Following up on our commitments: making your future work better”.

In a statement, Iranti noted that while the Constitution commits the state to protect LGBTI+ rights, in the past decade LGBTI+ people have only been mentioned once in a SONA.

Historically, the president has addressed issues around gender-based violence, femicide, hate crimes and human rights violations taking place in this country, particularly brutal attacks on LGBTI+ people.

“While these efforts have not gone unnoticed, we as an organisation are calling on Ramaphosa to go further and directly address the myriad of issues facing the LGBTI community in one of the most important speeches that he will deliver this year,” said Iranti.

“We are calling on the president to commit state officials as well as state resources to doing the crucial work of ensuring an end to the discrimination faced by LGBTI+ persons.”

Among the critical issues that Iranti believes should be addressed by the president are matters around Legal Gender Recognition (LGR) and Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM).

In South Africa, no express law exists for transgender and non-binary people to amend their gender markers on their identification documents, except for Act 49. The act is restrictive and requires transgender persons to have begun their medical transition, (hormonal or surgically) to apply to change the sex descriptor on their identity documents to reflect their gender identity.

This law is currently being challenged by trans and intersex movements, who have applied for amendments with the Department of Home Affairs.

“We urge the president to publicly support these amendments which will ensure that all transgender, non-binary and intersex persons can access identification documents,” said Iranti.

It also called on President Ramaphosa to put pressure on the Department of Health to urgently meet with LGBTI+ organisations to put an end to the practice of IGM.

This refers to intersex infants and children being subjected to non-consensual, medically unnecessary, irreversible genital surgeries and other harmful medical treatments to make their sex characteristics fit the binary of male or female.

Intersex people are born with sex characteristics – such as chromosomes, genitalia, reproductive anatomy, and hormones –that do not fit into the typical binary categories of either male or female.

Intersex traits are a naturally occurring variation in humans; some are visible, others are not. Some are apparent at birth, while others become apparent during puberty, or later in life – or are never discovered at all. Roughly 1.7 percent of people are born intersex.

“Despite this, IGM still takes place in a number of hospitals in South Africa, (under other names like ‘corrective surgery’, for example) causing severe mental and physical pain and suffering,” said Iranti.

“There is no health risk to being intersex and we as an organisation believe children should be allowed to decide for themselves what should happen to their bodies.”

Iranti urged the president to speak out on these and other LGBTI+ issues when addressing South Africa in his SONA speech.

“We want our voices to be heard. We want to be addressed as part of South Africa and for the president to live up to the Constitution that he helped draft and has sworn an oath to protect. This land belongs to LGBTI+ people too,” said Iranti.

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