It is with great sadness that parents, friends, families and civil society has had to increase advocacy strategies due to the increase in the brutalisation of queer bodies. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTIQ) bodies have always been in existence, visibility has now merely increased. Ostensibly, the increase in visibility leads to an increase in violence towards queer bodies specifically in the Republic of South Africa. It is imperative that our analysis of the current status quo is led by a walk down memory lane.
During the apartheid era, a South African government coxswained by white privileged men in 1948 (National Party) imposed and strengthened laws that segregated people based on race. Furthermore, imposed laws that criminalised LGBTIQ intimate relationships as well as marriage since 1927 through the Immorality Act. This led to the invisibilisation of queer bodies for many decades. The systematic exclusion and marginalisation of vulnerable bodies went as far as recording race in one’s identification book, and sex assigned at birth too. As you can imagine this does not speak to intersex bodies, gender nonconforming beings and transgender persons. 27 years into “democracy” and legacies of the past haunt us still, as beliefs that lead to behavioural enactments of homophobia, transphobia and hate crimes derive from our terrible past.
What does not assist the process is misaligned religious beliefs, unhelpful traditions and problematic cultural practices passed from generation to generation. We should not forget that privilege plays an immense role in violence. In 1950 the Population Registration Act separated black and coloured people which led to spatial segregation. Today we call those places townships or “kasi” where there is minimal policing, slow reaction by law enforcement and high crime against LGBTIQ bodies. Our counterparts who live on the other side of the fence have a totally different human experience. They have high walls, on the clock security, high response to any complaint and most importantly; privilege protects them, their gender identity and sexual orientation. The inconceivable knowledge of the ever so present presence of diversity, propels violence which reveals itself in various ways, for instance, raping someone and you have a belief that you will alter their gender or sexual orientation by using a penis (only a body part) or the use of objects.
Why should the love for me and the need for my fulfilment and happiness be the greatest danger of all in a country where a democratic constitutional document exists with the Bill of Rights enshrined in it? Everything that challenges cisnormativity leads to violence, accompanied by toxic masculinity and “normalised” patriarchy. Indeed, the worst statement to exchange across intergenerational thought processes, is, it has always been done that way.
The unique difference between equality and equity are reparations, reparations of the past. A typical example would be the unavailability of ablution facilities in an unequitable manner. Equality is having a male and female toilet; however, equity is having a gender inclusive toilet simultaneously. As a nation, we have not dealt with issues of race and its effects, therefore imperialist and colonialist laws and traditions speaking to gender identity and human sexuality need to be undoubtedly dealt with decisively.
As Human Rights defenders, Feminists and womanist, we have done the campaigning, the educating, mobilization of global funds and programming in their multitudes. However, the violence persists, where does the problem therein lie? Lulu Ntuthela, Siphamandla Khoza, Bonang Gaelae, Nonhlanhla Kunene and Lonwabo Jack died because of their freedom of expression in a “democratic “state. How many more burials should we attend for government to recognise the lived realities of dispossessed LGBTIQ bodies?
Greyson Vanguard Thela