LGBTIQ murders: SA Govt replies to Human Rights Watch


Candlelight vigil to remember LGBTIQ murder victims at Constitution Hill in May 2021 (Photo:

In a letter to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the South African government has outlined what action it is taking to protect the rights and lives of its LGBTIQ+ citizens.

In January, the New York-based organisation wrote to the authorities, in particular the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, expressing its concern about the wave of horrific LGBTIQ murders that rocked the country last year.

Listing the names of the known victims, Graeme Reid, Director of the HRW LGBT Rights Program, noted that “at least 20 LGBTI individuals were killed across South Africa between February and October 2021.” (This was found by MambaOnline to have grown to 24 reported victims by the end of the year.)

Reid requested information “regarding the steps that have been taken to investigate and prosecute the killings of LGBTI individuals in 2021”. He also asked for an update on revisions to the National Intervention Strategy for the LGBTI Sector, which provides the framework for the government’s plans to end LGBTIQ hate crimes.

In a letter dated 17 February, John Jeffery, the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development responded to the organisation and provided some answers as to how government is addressing the crisis.

Jeffery once again presented the National Task Team (NTT) on Violence against LGBTI Persons as a major element of the government’s approach to tackling LGBTIQ hate crimes. Unfortunately, this structure has historically failed to function effectively. (Perhaps things will be different going forward?)

The deputy minister did provide an update on the revised and expanded version of the current National Intervention Strategy (NIS) for the LGBTI Sector.

He noted that a two-day seminar was held in December 2020 to review the NIS, but the updated plan – while reportedly adopted with amendments at an NTT meeting late last month – has still to be released, more than a year later. “Inputs and comments on the revised NIS have been sought from civil society bodies and HRW’s inputs have also been incorporated into the revised draft,” said Jeffery.

Jeffery also revealed that the Department of Justice is “currently implementing awareness-raising sessions on LGBTIQ+ issues via more than 200 community radio stations across the country.”

It’s remarkable, however, that the Deputy Minister did not make any reference to the status of the long-awaited Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which was first published in 2016. Activists have called for its urgent implementation as one of the key strategies to deal with the LGBTIQ murders.

Earlier this month, Pinky Shongwe, a 32-year old lesbian woman, was brutally stabbed to death in Durban, reportedly because she rejected a man’s romantic advances.

The full letter from Deputy Minister John Jeffery can be read on the Human Rights Watch website.

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