“Visibility is pivotal to LGBTIQA+ fight”

Justice Edwin Cameron wants people who affiliate with LGBTIQA+ to come out for their cause against prejudice. 

By Anlerie de Wet

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LGBTIQA+ JUSTICE: Justice Edwin Cameron at the ACTIVATE Wits monthly talk. Photo: Anlerie de Wet

Justice Edwin Cameron supported the ACTIVATE Wits monthly pride talk on Friday by talking about how sexual orientation is a very complex matter in Africa.

Cameron, who came out in 1982, believes South Africa is the leading light in Africa in terms of same gender relationship acceptance, but he believes there is still a long road ahead.

He said because South Africa was the first in Africa to have a sexual orientation clause in it’s constitution, it has a responsibility to the LGBTI community to be “visible where they can, as visibility is pivotal to our fight.”

“They need to come out.”

The Justice urges the people to use the opportunities set in place by the legislative environment in the country to promote the cause of equality for all sexualities.

Cameron explained to the audience that Africa faces tremendous odds because “it faces different patriarchal hierarchies.”

He praised the progress of certain activists in the United States and of those in countries such as Malawi where it is illegal to be in a same sex relationship. The progress that has been made in Africa is irreversible, but people are still being imprisoned and assaulted for their sexuality, said Cameron.

There were members of the ACTIVATE Wits executive committee who were present at the event and still in the closet. Cameron used this case as an example that there is still much to be done to ensure that every person who identifies themselves as LGBTI fell safe to talk to their parents and communities about their sexuality.

Although things may be easier now than twenty years  ago, the road ahead “may have more bloodshed, hatred and incarceration, but the road is ours,” said Cameron.

No right to be gay in Uganda

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Justice Edwin Cameron meets and greets well-wishers at the launch of his book Justice this week.Photo: Luca Kotton.

by Luca Kotton and Roxanne Joseph

Being gay or even supporting gay rights is now illegal  in Uganda and can lead to life imprisonment.

Less than a week ago, President Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-homosexuality bill into law and since then, the onslaught from both local and international communities alike has been significant.

The act “prohibits any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; prohibits the promotion or recognition of such relations and to provide for other related matters.”

First drafted in 2009, the bill originally proposed the death penalty, but was later amended to life imprisonment because of international pressure.

Having sex with someone of the same gender, marrying someone of the same gender and touching someone of the same gender with “intent” to engage in a sexual act will land you in prison for the rest of your life. Officiating a same-gender marriage, aiding or counselling an LGBTI individual, offering premises or supplies to an LGBTI individual and directing a company or NGO that supports LGBTI rights leads to prison time of five to seven years.

Despite the watered down version of the bill coming into law, several countries – including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the US and the UK – have pulled financial aid from Uganda, one of the world’s poorest nations (as classified by the World Bank).

South Africa’s Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said “oppressors like (Ugandan President Yoweri) Museveni should not be allowed to flourish.”

Speaking at the launch of Justice Edwin Cameron’s book  Justice, on Thursday night, Moseneke added his voice to the condemnation of Uganda’s recently signed Bill. Cameron is one of South Africa’s most prominent gay rights activists and a colleague of Moseneke at the Constitutional Court.  [Read an extract from Cameron’s newest book here.]

No official condemnation of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality act has yet been issued by the South African government.