SONA 2023: Don’t ignore the LGBTQIA+ community, Mr President


President Cyril Ramaphosa has been urged to not ignore the challenges facing South Africa’s LGBTQIA+ community in the SONA (Photo: Alexandros Michailidis /

Activists have once again called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to acknowledge and address the LGBTQIA+ community in his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Ramaphosa will deliver the annual SONA to the country and the two Houses of Parliament on Thursday 9 February, which also marks the opening of the parliamentary year.

According to the South African government, “The speech sets out government’s key policy objectives and deliverables for the year ahead, highlights achievements, flags challenges, and outlines interventions for the coming financial year.”

In 2022, queer organisation Iranti appealed to Ramaphosa to address the many issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community in the SONA but he failed to do so. As part of its 2023 #QueerSona campaign, Iranti has renewed this call to the president.

“We want the president to commit state officials and state resources to ensuring an end to discrimination and of violence against LGBTQIA+ people, as envisaged by our Constitution,” said Iranti’s Communications and Media Manager, Nolwazi Tusini, in a statement.


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In addition to violence and discrimination, the organisation also highlighted challenges related to Legal Gender Recognition (LGR) and Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM) as being among the issues that Ramaphosa should tackle in the speech.

In South Africa, transgender persons who wish to change the sex descriptor on their identity documents to reflect their gender identity must have started a hormonal or surgical medical transition.

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

“At the same time, intersex-born infants and children are being subjected to IGM – which refers to non-consensual, medically unnecessary, irreversible genital surgeries and other harmful medical treatments – in order to make their sex characteristics fit the binary of male or female,” said Tusini.

The practice still takes place in several hospitals in South Africa, (under other names like ‘corrective surgery’, for example) “causing severe mental and physical pain and suffering”.

Iranti has demanded legal protection for intersex people and called for discussions with healthcare policymakers to put an end to IGM. It’s estimated that around 1.7 percent of people are born intersex.

“When President Ramaphosa addresses all three arms of the state and the rest of South Africa on 9 February 2023, we want to be included. We want our voices heard. We want to be addressed as part of South Africa,” said the organisation.


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