UCT students look on as a closet is burnt. The closet was a symbol of LGBTQ+ rights awareness. Picture: SAM CLARK
Cape Town - In a decision that the LGBTIQ+ community has hailed as “groundbreaking”, the University of Cape Town (UCT) launched a new policy to end discrimination on sexual orientation.

“UCT’s inclusivity policy for sexual orientation was adopted last year and launched last week. This policy is the only one of its kind in the higher education sector in South Africa,” said Viwe Tafeni, chairperson of Rainbow UCT.

“Other institutions have policies that deal with discrimination. However, these are very broad and ill-fitting for certain protected identities,” Tafeni said.

The policy, titled “UCT Inclusivity Policy for Sexual Orientation”, contains the minimum standards and guidelines in relation to the diversity and fluidity of sexual orientation.

It aims to ensure consistent engagement between students and staff, and to create an environment that respects differences regardless of an individual’s self-identified sexual orientation.

“The policy does not force, but instead encourages us all to embrace the diversity and fluidity of sexual orientation. It sets out minimum standards and guidelines for student and staff interaction and engagement. It can also serve as an educational resource,” added Tafeni.

The policy recognises the potentially negative impact of rules, practices, traditions, attitudes and assumptions prevalent in the institution, and accepts that these may purport that some staff and students do not count equally, because they identify themselves as part of a sexuality and gender minority.

The policy sets guidelines to be followed by the university’s institutions when they adopt or review rules, plans and practices. The guidelines also aim to inform and educate UCT staff and students to assist them in making the appropriate choices when deciding on what terminology to use in teaching practice, communication, health care and administrative services.

Director of the office of inclusivity and change Dr Sianne Alves said: “The birth of this policy is something our students and staff can be proud of.”

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Cape Argus