OPINION: Fighting discrimination an ongoing responsibility

The results of the 2019 International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association State-sponsored Homophobia report, researched and written by Lucas Ramon Mendos, declaring that South Africa is one of the safest countries in the world for the LGBTQI+ community, brought a smile on my face.

According to the 13th edition of the report, South Africa remains the only UN member state in Africa to recognise same-sex marriage.    

But I need to confess that from a distance, my country sometimes looks like it hates same-sex relationships. As I consumed this positive news, I pictured same-sex couples, cuddling or holding hands down Emms Drive in Nyanga. I pictured other couples going up Mew Way in Khayelitsha having a good time. Would I be right to say, the hospitality and the treatment would not always be as positive as the report’s results?

I’ve always believed that there is a lot that South Africans need to learn about same-sex couples.

The results of the report shows maturity from us as a country and indicates we have learnt and accepted that people can be what others are not. And it should be taken to churches who still refuse to recognise same-sex couples..

It is a big deal that our country, which has had instances of being hostile toward the LGBTQ community, has been named as one of the safest places in the world for same-sex couples.. But perhaps it’s also a reflection of how much worse they are treated in other countries.

However, we should also not be naive to think there won’t be any further incidents. There are still people who are in denial. There are families who will never accept their children’s sexual identity. There are beliefs, religions and cultures that would never accept that.

The onus is on politicians and communities at large to spread news. I know somewhere, somehow there is a young lad who is discriminated by his own parents for showing signs of being gay. In one little corner there is a baby girl at risk of being thrown out by her family for being lesbian.

I have covered horrible stories about the LGBTQ community. One of these was the story about a decomposed body of a 21-year-old woman who was found in a rubbish bin at Qumbu Street, Mau-Mau, Nyanga, that year. I have followed a story on a woman found dead on a footbridge near the Driftsands Nature Reserve with a gunshot wound to her body. Both of them killed simply because of their sexuality. If I were to dwell on the bad done to the LTBGQ community it would take the whole day.

Now as a country we have the responsibility to teach other countries to fight discrimination on the grounds of their gender orientation and gender identity. As a country we also have the responsibility to deal with other phobias, including xenophobia.

As we mark 25 years since our first democratic elections this Freedom Day on Saturday April 27, we still have a huge responsibility to stop discriminating against each other.