Joint Working Group Reject the Proposed Appointment of Homophobic Journalist Jon Qwelane as an AmbassadorPress Release
18 January 2010
Joint Working Group Reject the Proposed Appointment of Homophobic Journalist Jon Qwelane as an Ambassador
The Joint Working Group (JWG), a network Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) organizations throughout South Africa are deeply disturbed by reports over the weekend reportedly confirmed by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation that Jon Qwelane is to be appointed as an ambassador. We are even more disturbed by suggestions that he may be sent to Uganda where a brutally homophobic piece of legislation is being debated at this time.
Jon Qwelane has shown himself on a number of occasions to be openly and unapologetically homophobic and transphobic, not least when he wrote the article “Call me names, but Gay is not ok” in which he among other things expressed support for Robert Mugabe’s brutal and oppressive treatment of LGBTI people in Zimbabwe. There remains an open investigation and pending charges against Qwelane for hate speech at the South African Human Rights Commission in connection with this article.
Given that the South African Constitution in the Bill of Rights clearly states that people may not be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation it seems unbelievable that a person who clearly holds views contrary to those stated in the Constitution would be considered a suitable representative of the state in any role, anywhere in the world.
That there is even a suggestion of Qwelane being sent to Uganda is utterly disgraceful. The anti-homosexuality bill currently under discussion in that country is an entirely oppressive piece of legislation, not only does it seek to impose draconian punishments on people found guilty of homosexuality but it attempts to punish people who fail to report on homosexuals and activists working in the field of LGBTI rights among others.
That President Museveni of Uganda has in recent days spoken up against the bill is the result of an immense amount of activism within and outside Uganda and an enormous international outcry from countries around the world, South Africa’s voice has been painfully silent in this outcry. It defies comprehension that at a time like this South Africa would even consider sending a vocal homophobe to act as our countries new representative in Uganda.
The Joint Working Group rejects this appointment and call for its immediate withdrawal. We further demand that our government clearly state our countries opposition to the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. Finally we demand that the South African Human Rights Commission immediately expedite the pending Hate Speech charges against Jon Qwelane as this case has already taken far too long to come to court. We will be carefully considering all options for further action related to this matter.
For more information please contact: Emily Craven – JWG – 011 403 5566
Joint Working Group
011 403 5566
011 403 5567
The JWG is made up of the following member organisations
Behind the Mask
Coalition of African Lesbians
Durban Gay and Lesbian Community
Forum for the Empowerment of Women
Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action
Gay and Lesbian Network (PMB)
Glorious Light MCC
Good Hope MCC
Hope and Unity MCC
Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM)
Out in Africa
OUT LGBT Well-being
RainbowUCTDate published:18/01/2010Organisation:Joint Working Group
- Judgement in the hate-speech case against African National Congress Youth League president, Julius Malema, has been reserved in the Equality Court.
Magistrate, Colleen Collis, says that she will indicate the date that judgement will be handed down at a later stage.
Malema was taken to court by the Sonke Gender Justice Network over his comments that President Jacob Zuma's rape accuser had a nice time during the alleged incident.
To read the article titled, “Judgement reserved in Malema Equality Court case,” click here.Source:Mail&Guardian
- Rape victims should be encouraged to apply for compulsory HIV testing of alleged rapists. This is the view of Minister of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya.
Mayende-Sibiya argues that rape survivors should fully utilise the provisions of the Sexual Offences Amendment Act, adding that they [survivors] have a right to request compulsory HIV testing of an alleged offender.
"We have to ensure that survivors know about this provision and are able to utilise it,” explains Mayende-Sibiya. She was speaking at an event to mark 16 Days of Activism Campaign on No Violence against Women and Children in Durban.
To read the article titled, “Rapist HIV tests compulsory,” click here.Source:News24
- AIDS activist group the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has called for a radical approach to halt gender-based violence and HIV in South Africa.
The TAC is also urging President Jacob Zuma to throw his weight behind efforts to change men's attitudes and behaviour towards women and girls.
The organisation is also commending Zuma’s administration for showing the political will to fight the HIV and AIDS and tuberculosis pandemics. The comments come a day before South Africans commemorate the World AIDS Day on 1 December 2009.
To read the article titled, “Zuma urged to show men how to treat women,” click here.Source:Independent Online
- From 25 November to 10 December, get ready to click your mouse, flex your SMS fingers and engage full energy to take control of technology to end violence against women. APC's Women’s Programme calls on users of the radio, television, Internet, e-mails and mobile phones to Take Back the Tech!
Take Back the Tech! is an initiative of the APC Women's Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP), a global network of women who support women's networking for social change and women's empowerment through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), especially Internet, founded in 1993.
What is the campaign about?
Take Back the Tech! is a collaborative campaign for anyone using the Internet and technology to protest violence against women (VAW). Initiated by APC's women's programme (APC WNSP) in 2006, and built by a diverse movement of individuals, organisations, collectives and communities, the campaign is part of the UN-sanctioned 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence which begins on November 25 each year. It is our right to shape, define, participate, use and share knowledge, information and technology, and to create digital spaces that are safe and equal.
Take Back the Tech! calls all users of information and communications technologies (ICTs) - especially girls and women but also men and boys - to take control of technology and consciously use it to change unequal power relations. Take Back the Tech! will be happening all over the world, including in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Uganda as part of APC WNSP's efforts to achieve Millenium Development Goal 3 to promote gender equality and empower women.
In Malaysia, women in the community are learning how to blog, and posting their perceptions on violence against women in their own language, in Mexico, women's communication rights activists and journalists plan for 16 days of feminist tweeting on technology how-tos and against violence against women, and in the Republic of Congo, students will write and perform a play on violence against women and technology.
How can you Take Back the Tech?
Spread the word - state your stand and help us spread the word about the campaign. Send this message on, change your e-mail signature or status messages to point to the campaign website, send a digital postcard, put the campaign banner on your site, chalk it on a sidewalk, any creative ways you can think of to spread the word! If you are on Twitter, tweet with us by using the hashtag: #takebackthetech. If you are a blogger, ka-BLOG with us :) Spread the word by translating actions and slogans in your local languages, and disseminating the campaign and its daily actions through any of your online channels.
16 daily actions - simple daily actions throughout the 16 days show how to use technology strategically to counter VAW. From sending SMS, to making digital postcards, learning a new software, playing with radio or remembering forgotten names in the history of IT development, you can take action with the tools and platforms you have at hand. Check the campaign website during the 16 days to take part in daily actions.
Ka-BLOG with us - explore and broaden the knowledge around technology and Internet and violence against women by joining the Take Back the Tech! 16-day blogathon. New to blogging? This is the perfect reason to start your own, or at least, click that "comment" button to have your say. In Filipino slang, "ka-BLOG" means someone you blog with, we can all blog together to raise awareness and help end VAW. Tag your blog posts using Technorati tag: "takebackthetech", or register your blog on the campaign website, or e-mail us at email@example.com. Join our movement to transform the blogosphere!
Start a campaign - start your own Take Back the Tech! campaign. Independent and creative initiatives to Take Back the Tech! are taking off in different parts of the world, translating content and action to address local needs and priorities. Use the campaign website to highlight your action, or find information and resources. There are campaign kits, images and graphics, tips on how to be safe online, articles and links, available in English, Spanish and French. If you don’t have an online publishing space, you can have your own page on the site. Email us to let us know how we can support your action at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digital stories, audiocasts & more - learn by listening to the experience and stories of women and men affected by VAW. The campaign website will feature digital stories, audiocasts, video clips and postcards. If you have something you would like to share, just log on to the campaign site and submit your story.
Suggest an action - help shape the campaign by sharing your experience and ideas. If you have thoughts, e-mail us or log on to the site, and make it part of the campaign.
Check www.TakeBackTheTech.net daily from 25 November to 10 December, and take control of technology to end violence against women.
For more information, send an e-mail to email@example.com, join the campaign on Facebook or Twitter (#takebackthetech and #dominemosTIC) or connect with other campaigners.
Also contact Erika Smith, Communications Coordinator of APC WNSP if you require any additional information.
- Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women provides policymakers and other stakeholders with guidance on creating and strengthening policies against violence against women. Based on the work on an expert group convened in 2009 by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the handbook outlines a legal framework to protect women, hold perpetrators accountable, and support survivors of violence. It provides country-specific examples of successful legislation from throughout the world.
For more information, click here.
- What do you think of when you see a butterfly? Beautiful colours! Freedom after the struggle to break out of a cocoon! The sky is the limit! Reaching up; reaching out!
These were just a few of the answers given by survivors of gender violence who over the last five years have come out to tell their stories. Gathered together at a workshop convened by Gender Links (GL) ahead of the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence from 25 November (International Day of No Violence Against Women) to 10 December (Human Rights Day), the women took some time to pause to recall what speaking out has meant to them.
The butterfly is the symbol of the “I” Stories brand that these women have created, as well as a profound metaphor for their lives. As facilitator Mmatshilo Motsei (a long-time gender activist assisting survivors to recover and regain their health and well-being), sketched out the life cycle of a butterfly, lights went on in the eyes of the 25 women who had come together to take stock of their healing journey.
“The caterpillar is a victim whose hopelessness is compounded when it closes up in a cocoon,” Motsei said. “The butterfly that emerges is a survivor with new found freedom and possibilities. That does not mean your flight will always be a smooth one. Sometimes the most profound lessons are learned from taking the wrong turn. We think of healing as a destination but it is a journey, with several land marks along the way. Talking is the beginning of that journey.”
When the “healing through writing project” in first started in 2004, it was fraught with risks. What if women who came out to tell their stories, especially through the media, suffered even more violence at the hands of abusive partners? What would happen after the near celebrity status accorded by the Sixteen Days came to an end? How would we respond to expectations raised for jobs and security?
Each year as Sixteen Days approaches, in collaboration with support and counseling organisations, GL puts out a call to anyone wishing to share their story. Gathering together in a workshop setting, survivors first tell each other their stories. They then go off and write them with the support of a team of editors, before the stories are finally sent to the mainstream media.
The stories are widely disseminated and published by newspapers and online outlets. Many stories also generate requests for interviews by the electronic media and survivors are often asked to speak at public events, lead marches and get involved in gender violence campaigns.
The stories of over 55 survivors that GL has worked with in South Africa, chronicled in four “butterfly” books that also include stories from other Southern African countries, cover every race and age group. They range from a woman who had her jail sentence lifted after murdering a sadistic partner following years of physical and emotional torture, to another forced to watch her husband having sex with his girlfriend in the same bed.
This year, even as equally gruesome “I” Stories started to pour in ahead of the Sixteen Days, we decided to follow up on past participants to get some idea of what effect speaking out has had on their lives. Some could not be traced. Others preferred not to continue to be associated with gender violence related work.
However, the half who responded to the alumni call and spent a weekend writing follow up “I” stories shared uplifting stories of what breaking out of the cocoon has meant for them. At least three have become counselors at the shelters where they once took refuge. Rehanna, a Muslim woman living with HIV and a participant in the very first “I” story workshop, is now a well-known advocate of disclosing one’s HIV status.
Rose Thamae’s three-generation story of enlisting her daughter and granddaughter to the cause after a gang rape left her with HIV has inspired hundreds here and abroad. She leads Lets Grow, a vibrant community-based HIV and AIDS care network in Orange Farm with branches in Lesotho.
Thamae has spoken on global stages from India to the United Nations in New York. Her young granddaughter Kgomotso says, “Even though I am sometimes stigmatised because of my grandmother’s experiences, I would much rather have them out in the open than the subject of rumours and gossip. Mothers should be honest with their daughters. The truth will set you free.”
Marco Ndlovu, a lesbian who has suffered untold pain at the hands of her family and a community determined to “fix her” has written Zulu poems and become a gay rights activist, marching recently to the Uganda embassy to demand the repealing of a bill to stamp out homosexuality in the East African nation.
Participants at the weekend workshop pointed out that putting painful experiences to paper helps you to think through, understand, and come to terms with what has happened. Noting that “a story told is a burden shared” one participant said that reading other stories helped her realise that things could have been worse. Two participants said that documenting their experiences helped their perpetrators to see the light. In one case, in-laws, previously unaware of their son’s conduct, came to apologise.
When Sweetness Gwebu first participated in the “I” Story project in 2007 after 37 years of living in an abusive relationship, she did not want her name used. The following year, her image and name graced the foreword to the 2008 “I” Stories book. Now she is writing a book that probes deeper into the causes of gender violence. “What I have found not even a psychiatrist would know,” she said.
Grace Maleka who became disabled because of a car accident, recounts how after her story of abuse aired on ETV, she received several calls from community members saying she had lied. Written story in hand, she stood her ground and has gone on to give dozens of media interviews, especially with local community radio stations, and become a leading for disabled women, especially on issues of gender violence.
The experience of participating in cyber dialogues, and having her story posted on Women 24 where it received many comments has opened her eyes to the potential power of information technology in the campaign for women’s rights.
Maleka compares herself to a driver who looks in the right mirror, the left mirror, and the rear view mirror before overtaking a car on the highway. “When you have done all that, there is only one way to go and that is forward,” she said. “For me, there is no turning back.”
- Colleen Lowe Morna is Executive Director of Gender Links. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on every day news. More information on the Sixteen Days of Activism campaign can be found on www.genderlinks.org.za. This article is also published on the Citizen Journalism in Africa (CJA) Portal.
- Gender Equality Toolbox aims to provide useful context on gender equality as a priority of Danish development assistance. It offers strategic directions and presents good examples of how gender programming can achieve results on the ground. Divided into six sections, the guide provides a quick introduction to gender mainstreaming, an overview of lessons learnt, challenges and opportunities. It also looks at how gender equality can be addressed in connection with harmonisation and alignment with national policies in a country.
For more information, click here.
- Strategies for Policy Makers: Bringing Women into Governments provides the international community with concrete strategies for bringing women into government. The guide points out various policies and programmes that can be used to increase women’s participation in government. Success stories from post conflict democracies that have used these mechanisms are highlighted. They include Rwanda, Cambodia and Afghanistan. Its top recommendations include; demand women's inclusion in transitional institutions, especially constitution-drafting bodies.
For more information, click here.