Gala discussions take place quarterly at Wits University.
Police officers in South Africa need to be more effectively trained to deal with gay people who suffer violence at the hands of their partners. This was the general sentiment at a discussion hosted by Gala, an organisation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) culture and education in Braamfontein on Sunday, July 22.

Attorney Zwakele Mbanjwa, one of the panelists in the dialogue called “Intimate Partner Violence in Same Sex Relationships”, said that gay people are laughed at and turned away from police stations when they try to report cases of violence. He said, “The police’s response to these incidents is normally, ‘why do you allow  another man to hit you.”

He added that he believed that most police are homophobic and their attitudes discourage the reporting of intimate partner violence.

Dialogue coordinator, Sindile Bongela, and a member of the panel, said most gay men suffer trauma and depression as a result of being mistreated and rejected by society. This then plays out in their intimate relationships.

“I know gay men who identify with pain and violence as a form of love because that’s all they know. As children they’re beaten by people with the intention to change their sexuality. Pain and violence becomes their love language.” Bongela added. He said such narratives are also perpetuated by media as it portrays gay men as weak, powerless, and not man enough.

“Media has an important role to play in shinning the spotlight on these issues. It should be something that we talk about so that we find solutions and ways to deal with it,” Bongela said.

One of the participants, Thabang Mabona, said dialogues like this one should happen every month as they empower gay men to speak up about challenges they face daily and to receive urgent assistance.

“These discussions afford us a safe space to engage with other gay men without feeling judged or intimidated. We come here to empower and support each other because in our communities we hardly have people who understand us,” Mabona said.

Bongela said that Gala intends to engage relevant stakeholders such as the South African Police Services (SAPS) and local clinics on how to tackle intimate partner violence among the gay community appropriately.

FEATURED IMAGE: Students attend a Gala discussion on the escalation of violence amongst gay men in the hands of their intimate partners. Photo: Takalani Sioga

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