Cape Town - South Africa is not obliged to comment on or react to Uganda’s “draconian” anti-gay legislation, or any other country’s laws for that matter.
That’s the word from Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor when she broke the government’s silence on President Yoweri Museveni’s decision to sign the controversial bill that has harsh penalties for homosexual sex.
Addressing a governance and administration cluster briefing in Parliament on Tuesday, Pandor said the constitution – hailed among the world’s most progressive – clearly articulated the country’s position on human rights. This, she said, included lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
“Countries pass many bills and the government never comments on them, so I don’t know why there would be a special comment by the government on this,” Pandor said.
The passing of the bill has sparked national outrage, including from gender activists.
Pandor said South Africa’s position with regards to sexual orientation and the rights of equality was “very clear”.
“(They’re) built in our Bill of Rights and legislation that has been passed in this country. So our position is absolutely clear and it’s not changed by any policy adopted by any country. I think it’s not a practice that we comment on legislation of other countries and governments… We have our Civil Marriages Act, we have our Bill of Rights, we have promotion of equality both in employment and other areas.”
The issue arose in the National Assembly on Tuesday when DA deputy chief Sandy Kalyan was heckled by ANC members when she raised the matter during members’ statements session in the house.
The ANC and the African Christian Democratic Party blocked a DA motion without notice, condemning the Anti-Homosexuality Bill signed into law by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday.
“It is also highly revealing that ANC MPs heckled me today when I raised this issue in the House, illustrating their brazen insensitivity… for this shocking measure. Our motion would have ensured that South Africa continues with the human rights-based foreign policy established by President Nelson Mandela and that we re-gain our moral standing in the international arena,” said Kalyan.
Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela said the government would, through diplomatic channels, be seeking clarification on the developments regarding the situation of lesbians, gays, bisexual, transsexual and intersex persons around the world.
He explained, without singling out Uganda: “South Africa views the respect for the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms as a critical pillar of our domestic and foreign policies; hence they are enshrined in our constitution.”
Monyela said, though, that South Africa believed that no people should be subjected to “discrimination or violence on any ground, including on the basis of sexual orientation.
“On the domestic front, we also have challenges of our own in this regard,” he said.
In 2006, Jacob Zuma was forced, while deputy president, to apologise after he made disparaging remarks against gays and lesbians. He reportedly said same-sex marriages were a “disgrace to the nation and to God” and that when he was a young man he would have knocked down any homosexual person he met.
“My remarks were made in the context of the traditional way of raising children… I said the communal upbringing of children in the past was able to assist parents to notice children with a different social orientation,” Zuma said.
On Tuesday, “Red Pepper”, a tabloid newspaper in Kampala, published a list of what it called the country’s “200 top” homosexuals, outing some Ugandans who had not identified themselves as gay, one day after the president enacted the harsh anti-gay law. – Additional reporting by AP