According to the African Bar Association’s Annual Conference website, President Cyril Ramaphosa was the event’s “special guest of honour.” (Photo: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com)
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s scheduled participation in a conference funded by the American LGBTIQ+ hate group Family Watch International has raised concerns among human rights groups.
The African Bar Association’s annual conference, held in collaboration with the University of South Africa (UNISA) from August 6 to 10 in Pretoria, became a topic of concern due to its co-sponsorship by Family Watch International, an Arizona-based organisation designated as an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Promotion of Anti-LGBTIQ+ and Anti-Choice Views
Family Watch International has been condemned for its promotion of anti-LGBTIQ+ and anti-choice ideologies under the banner of protecting hateful and exclusionary notions of family values.
This includes supporting the criminalisation of homosexuality, the dissemination of pseudoscientific claims such as the belief that homosexuality is a mental disorder caused by childhood trauma, and the endorsement of so-called “conversion therapy” to change same-sex attraction.
The organisation has also been implicated in the passage of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law, adding to concerns about its harmful impact.
Influential Attendees and Concerning Remarks
The conference boasted a list of distinguished scheduled guests, including President Ramaphosa, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, and other prominent figures from African countries.
According to human rights groups, Dr Seyoum Antonios, a representative of Family Watch International spoke at the opening ceremony on Monday and used the platform to express “concerns” about perceived negative Western influences on African countries.
He discouraged African countries from entering into agreements with Western nations on the protection of human rights, such as the right to equality. He also warned that efforts to uphold sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) were aimed at deceptively promoting the “LGBT, abortion and child sexualisation and transgender agenda of the European Union and other donor countries.”
Human Rights Advocacy and Call for Action
Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), and Gender Dynamix (GDX) have united in urging South African authorities to uphold the principles of the country’s Constitution.
Anna Mmolai-Chalmers, SALC’s LGBTIQ+, Sex Work & Disability Programs Manager, commented that the spread of hate and discrimination against the LGBTIQ+ community in Africa by Family Watch International is not new.
“What is shocking is that South African members of the judiciary and the executive are participating in a conference that is sponsored by a group that clearly stands against human rights of dignity and equality, which are core pillars of our society,” said Mmolai-Chalmers.
SA Leaders Must Speak Out Against Hate and Oppression
Gender Dynamix’ Assistant Regional Programmes Manager and Education Advocacy Officer, Khanyisile Phillips, underscored that a democratic society has a mandate to defend human rights principles for all humans, based on equality, dignity, freedom, and a deep understanding of justice.
“We cannot endorse, sit back, and watch conservatism become an instrument of hatred and oppression; we must actively safeguard the functioning of our constitution, defend our true African values of Ubuntu, and create a world in which every person is treated with the same respect, afforded the same rights, and treated equally with dignity,” said Phillips.
SALC, ICJ, and GDX jointly called on the President of South Africa, as well as other members of the executive, judiciary, and legislature, to publicly denounce organisations, like Family Watch International, that oppose human rights, equality, and non-discrimination.