Homophobia divides, working class solidarity unites -South African Municipal Workers Union calls on SADC to act.
STILL why the silence from academics, womens movements, landrights movements particularly those in the SADC region? This is a disgrace on their behalf – people who call themseloves progressives and feminists but remain silent on the verdict and sentencing of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.
SAMWU PRESS STATEMENT
20th May 2010.
SAMWU has become increasingly concerned by the homophobic utterances of several national leaders on the continent over the last few years. Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Museveni in Uganda and a few others have made intolerable comments about the rights of consenting adults to engage in a same sex relationship. One has to ask what is it exactly that irks these ‘revolutionary’ leaders? What are they afraid of? However recent events in Malawi have surpassed even these levels of ignorance and prejudice.
News has just been received that a court in Blantyre has convicted Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga for committing so-called “unnatural acts”. Steven and Tiwonge were arrested in December 2009 after celebrating their engagement and have been in jail ever since. They face up to 14 years in jail, even though the only ‘crime’ that they have committed is to admit to being partners.
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not permitted under the South African Constitution, and South Africans should be immensely proud of this progressive tract.
However, it is not enough to simply be proud of a seminal document that helps to define the nature of our society. Our leaders here in SA, and elsewhere who support a tolerant and democratic continent must not only praise our Constitution, but share its wisdom, and promote and defend the universal rights that it enshrines.
With this in mind, we call upon the SADC countries and the African Union to disassociate themselves from the judgement that has been made in Malawi, and further to urge the immediate release of the two individuals concerned, for all charges to be dropped, and for a complete review of colonial homophobic legislation. We also call for an end to police and media harassment of minorities that serves no purpose but to encourage division and misery. This is the very least that should be done at this time.
Homosexuality exists in all of our societies. It is a reality, however difficult it is for some to accept this simple fact. Incarcerating innocent couples who just happen to be of the same sex serves no purpose other than to feed the cancer of discrimination.
We pledge our support to the campaign initiated by Section 27, a new organisation established to protect basic human rights, and we urge all Unions and Campaign groups to do likewise. Let’s make it clear that repressing sections of our community because of their sexual orientation is not acceptable, and that we refuse to be silenced and divided by prejudice and homophobia. Let’s remember: An injury to one is an injury to all! Free Steven and Tiwonge now!
For further comment contact Steve Faulkner, SAMWU’s International and Equality Officer on 0828175455
South African Municipal Workers’ Union of COSATU.
Office: 011-331 0333.