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‘Closet burning was a hate crime’

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iol news oct 6 gay_closet

Cape Times

A bright pink closet, meant to highlight homophobia and promote gay rights at UCT, was torched on Monday night, just hours after it was set up. Students have called on university management to investigate the burning as a hate crime. Photo: Sam Clark

By Michelle Jones

Gay rights activists at UCT are up in arms about ongoing prejudice on campus after a symbol intended to highlight prejudice against gay people and to promote gay rights was burnt down.

The symbol – a closet – had been on display for less than 12 hours when it was torched on Monday night.

Posters put up around the campus yesterday said: “This closet was supposed to highlight the homoprejudice that still burns through the fabric of our society. Apparently, it also burns through our own campus.”

Students commenting on Twitter and Facebook have asked what hope there could be for gay activism in South Africa if the burning of such a symbol could happen at a liberal university.

Rainbow UCT, the student society which erected the bright pink closet as part of Pink Week, has slammed the burning of the closet and called on university management to investigate it as a hate crime.

The Pink Week campaign, hosted by the university and Rainbow UCT, a student-run lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) group, was organised to celebrate and promote sexual diversity.

The campaign was launched on Monday with the relaunch of The Closet Campaign at Jameson Plaza. The closet had previously been defaced with graffiti when it was displayed in 2007.

Dylan Jack van Vuuren, the outgoing chairman of Rainbow UCT, said the closet had been left where it was yesterday to draw further attention to prejudice on campus.

Van Vuuren said the group was deeply concerned about the “cowardly act of arson”.

“We request that university management, including Campus Protection Services, acknowledges that this is a hate crime and an indication of a larger problem found within the UCT community and broader South African society, which needs to be addressed.”

Van Vuuren said the burning would not dampen members’ spirits and Pink Week would continue.

UCT said in a statement yesterday that security personnel were investigating the “regrettable” destruction of the closet.

Vice-chancellor Max Price said: “One would have hoped that the rights of LGBTI are accepted and one need only celebrate that right, rather than still fight for it. However, it seems there are still people who do not acknowledge some rights embedded in our constitution, and that we definitely still have a lot of work to do to in this regard.”

Campus authorities have opened a case of destruction of property. - Cape Times

michelle.jones@inl.co.za


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Amanda, wrote

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02:33pm on 8 October 2010
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People are people. It's really that simple. Gay; straight. Black; white. Tall; short. It really shouldn't matter. A lot of people think discrimination and prejudice have made big steps in the past, but it clearly hasn't. Just because something goes against what YOU feel is right, doesn't mean it's simply wrong. We're all in this world together, therefore we need to co-exist. What good is it if we're all at war with each other? It won't do any good at all. So, quit being so narrow minded and realize that times have changed, and people just shouldn't be harassed. Especially; for what ever they chose to believe in.

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Damian, wrote

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06:59pm on 7 October 2010
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OH MY GOD people...You go on about how it is thrown in your face all the time. What about EVERYTHING straight that happens in the world? Is that not constantly being THROWN in the face of gay people? And anyway, if you don't want to have anything to do with it, then rather just don't read articles like this and waste your time by making archaic and uneducated comments.

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Kaleidoscope LGBTIA youth network, wrote

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04:34pm on 7 October 2010
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@Byron, most universities fall under membership of Kaleidoscope - a South African LGBTIA umbrella body existing to bring together every university LGBTIA group. So far, we have members in nearly every province, and each province has a manager. So if you're in a tertiary institution battling with gender or sexual orientation issues, please know that there is a system in place - led by dedicated people who will never let homoprejudice, transphobia, or any other kind of discrimination win. This is a time to stand in solidarity with RainbowUCT's committee and members, they have worked extremely hard to build an amazing organisation and make campus safe, open and tolerant for you. Stand up and show your solidarity.

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Keletso, wrote

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07:14am on 7 October 2010
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People who accuse gay people of "throwing it in our faces" need to take a moment to think about how our society is structured to engulf people in heterosexuality. Imagine a world where you (hetero-sexual person) were assumed to be homosexual until proven otherwise. Also, people don't seem to really understand what free SPEECH means. It does not allow for arson. Deploying your god, or your children, to further your own bigotry is also quite a lazy tactic. People do not believe that god is homophobic (why would he - assuming he exists - create people that sin without doing anything?).

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Anonymous, wrote

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07:40pm on 6 October 2010
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These dam gays and lesbians need to embrace jesus.... he was a carpenter... he can build them a new closet... then everyone will be happy! And now that I have upset everyone...

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Jan de Villiers , wrote

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06:07pm on 6 October 2010
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One question to all the authors of these “witty” comments... Who is dying and being ripped of their human rights due to their sexual orientation? I thought we are all grown up and have moved on - learned to co-exist...

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Anonymous, wrote

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03:23pm on 6 October 2010
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Incredible that there are so many ignorant people leaving comments here. Obviously it can't be students of a university such as this, right? Straight pride parade? Seriously? This is pure willful ignorance. Straight people are not persecuted for their straightness. And you don't hide your straightness. Every time you mention your girlfriend, wife or kids you are shoving your straightness in everyone's faces. No?

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Martin, wrote

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02:12pm on 6 October 2010
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For some reason it is totally OK for straight couples to kiss or hold hands in public in SA, but the moment gay people do this, it is viewed as forcing your gayness on everybody else. So to me the comments here that gays force their gayness on everybody else are unfair because if you view it the other way around, well straight people force their straightness on gays all the time! I think this is a lot about what the pink cupboard was meant to highlight. LGBTI people should be able to do all the things that straight people can do, safely, and without becoming a centre of attention in the process. At present this is not the case almost everywhere in our country and hence there is a need for LGBTI activism, despite what other people have written here.

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Gr8WorkBigots!, wrote

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01:56pm on 6 October 2010
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Great news! This does exactly what RainbowUCT wanted it to do - Rename the work 'out of the closet and into the fire'. It highlights so very well the prejudice young gay people experience when they declare their sexuality - it is an artwork in it's own right created by bigots. it should be left exactly as it is for the full duration of the exhibition to make people reflect on the stupidy of the bigots that burned it. It has done an excellent job in drawing attention to the problem and hopefully it will help to prevent further unnecessary prejudice against LBGTI people.

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Byron , wrote

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01:53pm on 6 October 2010
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With me going to a liberal university as of next year am i to expect the demolition of all student based campaigns which are seen as controversial? How is this to affect student rights in universities the country over?

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SR, wrote

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01:07pm on 6 October 2010
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Most of the comments I have read shows ignorance about gay people. Awareness should rather be made about why people are gay. It is not a choice. They are born that way. Research and education will clarify my comments. Please don't bring God into this. Religion has forbidden the act of anal sex for both male and female. Not all gay relationships is based on intercourse. The medical reasoning is that vital organs become affected by indulging in anal intercourse. Same sex attractions have been around as early as mankind. Religious books suggest fasting and praying but this does not help. Gay people go through a lot emotionally - statistics show that due to this crisis in their lives, most gay people will at some point attempt suicide. I, being a straight person had a lot of difficulty in accepting gay people but after educating myself about the topic, I have a lot of family and friends who have come out of the closet. They are the best individuals and friends that I could ever associate with. Wake up people and start thinking beyond your noses.

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Catherine, wrote

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11:32am on 6 October 2010
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The comments on this page are alarming. Most of them are emotional knee-jerk reactions based on prejudice and irrationality. It is highly disturbing that such comments have come from those who are supposedly the educated youth, and leaders of the future. The purpose of such campaigns is to highlight the interests of minority groups. The argument that LGBTI groups should not campaign because straight people do not campaign is absurd. LGBTI's have never been on the same footing as heterosexuals and increased awareness of their concerns is crucial. (Need one refer to Uganda?) The issue of whether or not the closet was offensive is completely irrelevant. Freedom of expression is not constrained by the condition that 'thou shalt not offend!'.

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melanie, wrote

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11:28am on 6 October 2010
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like i said, can we leave "GOD' out of this?? also all other hocus pocus and smoke and mirrors. this is about ppl forcing their gayness in our faces.

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wotshisname, wrote

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11:26am on 6 October 2010
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Yes straight people have rights as well Michael. The problem is, they don't have to stand up for those rights every time they fall in love, adopt a child or get married. Gay people are beaten, murdered and raped on a weekly basis in South Africa. Campaigns, such as the pink closet (As simple a concept as it may be.) are an attempt to draw attention to these issues, not to force you into accepting it. For generations, homosexuals have been forced into accepting heterosexuals as the "natural way of things", accepting their ways, so why should gay people not have their say for once in history? You would rather they just went into hiding and lived their lives in secret? Tut tut to you! It was straight people who set them apart as abominations, it is straight people who must hear their protests and accept them back. I urge you to do some research (Google is your friend.) into what the LGBTI community in South Africa have to put up with, still to this day. Then, armed with some facts, ask yourself if you still think they should remain silent. @znog - Pink has been the colour representitive of homosexuals since (at least) early twentieth century (Pink Triangles were used in Nazi concentration camps to denote a homosexual) and breast cancer awareness campaigns came much later. Perhaps we could change the breast cancer awareness colour to blue? I mean for goodness sake, a colour can only possibly represent one organisation or movement, right? @MC - Gay rights campaigns are an attempt to achieve equal recognition within society and to have their rights protected just like yours are. It is not an attempt to force it on society. We are already in society, all they are looking for is recognition. @James1 - I agree! I think pushing for this event to be considered a hate crime, would be like viewing the defacing of the new "African" named road signs as a hate crime... just silly! @Anonymous - Although I agree with most of what you say, I disagree with the fact that you are being forced to celebrate some peoples gayness. I think homosexuals are just wanting to be able to celebrate their OWN gayness, without fear of being attacked or brutalised. @Melanie - *high five* @anonymous - Although I am with you on the half naked men parading through the streets not being so wonderful, I must point out to you that the world over, heterosexuals do the exact same thing in a number of carnivals. Like, I said though, I don't agree. @Straight-edge - Nicely put!! *high five* @w.Foster - :o) @Anonymous - When precisely did God in Gods' great wisdom decide to share with you Gods' instense dislike of gays and lesbians?? Also, why is it that your Almighty God needs the help of such meager beings as yourself to fight this "holy war" against a sick society? Really, using God as an excuse for your own hatred and fear, leading from your own diminutive character is very sad indeed. Perhaps, you too need to get over yourself!! ....enough said.

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Tee, wrote

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11:23am on 6 October 2010
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Gays, go ahead and be gay and people shouldn't judge or discriminate against you. But also don't force it on everyone's face that you are gay, we straight people don't do that. Be gay but don't force the society to focus on you.

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OutAndProud, wrote

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11:07am on 6 October 2010
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What's wrong with peaceful gay activism when we have homophobic, prejudicial heterosexual bigots? May bigots and cowardly arsonists be brought to book and eat their just deserts! Well done Rainbow UCT for getting to the bottom of this and also to Max Price and UCT Management for dealing with this in such a mature manner! I suggest the burnt remains of the closet be exhibited for many years to come and posters be sent to all schools, educational institutions and government buildings throughout the African Continent.

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André Rocher, wrote

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10:47am on 6 October 2010
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People proclaiming to be christian and supposedly knowing the will of god is making their own religion ridiculous. They are treating their god as a puppet to be used for their own political gains. The Nazis did it to justify their hatred of Jews. The NP conveniently used church to justify apartheid. Your poor god gets paraded as a jew, black and gay hating bigot. Not exactly the image of jesus that springs to mind. But thats cool. Alienate yourself from the world. Life in your black and white society with picket fences. I don't want to know you and care less what you think or write on a comment page. There is much more great thing to see and interesting people to meet in my grey world.

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Michael, wrote

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10:15am on 6 October 2010
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Straight People have rights as well. Why should we be subjected to all this liberal rubbish. If we had a Straight Parade etc there would be total uproar about human rights and blah blah blah. Get over it. The Homosexual's of this country have every right to be themselves, WE DONT NEED TO BE SUBJECTED TO IT AND forced into accepting it.

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znog, wrote

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10:11am on 6 October 2010
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Cool publicity stunt...now everyone knows about pink closets burning on UCT campus! pink is for breast cancer - can they not choose baby blue for gay rights or something?

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MC, wrote

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10:11am on 6 October 2010
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Oh my word, all gay people, get over yourselves!!! Be gay, but stop forcing it down on society. Be gay in silence like the rest of the world is straight in silence.

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