LGBTQI+ youth still have a long way to go to be truly free in South Africa
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Cape Town - This Youth Day, as much as we look back on that iconic moment in South Africa's history that was the 1976 Soweto Uprising, where young men and women defied the apartheid system to fight against injustice, it’s important that we also look at the state in which our youth currently find themselves, especially LGBTQI+ youth.
June is also Pride Month, a month dedicated to celebrating and remembering the impact that the LGBTQI+ community has made and the strides that still need to be taken to create a free and safe environment for the LGBTQI+ community.
The LGBTQI+ community has come a long way in South Africa, with the country making much progress towards celebrating and recognising its members.
As the first African country to legally recognise same-sex unions, South Africa is a beacon of hope on a continent that still punishes same-sex couples harshly, with many LGBTQI+ people fleeing their countries of birth to take up residence in a "free" South Africa.
However, according to a five-year report by the Hate Crimes Working Group, the group most discriminated against in South Africa is the LGBT community, with 35% of hate crimes reported coming from LGBT+ people, writes Pink News.
Anti-gay crimes in South Africa are on the rise, with many young men and women from the LGBTQI+ community having been targeted for who they are.
The Triangle Project is a non-profit human rights organisation in Cape Town that offers professional services to ensure the full realisation of constitutional and human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning (LGBTIQ) persons, their partners and families.
The organisation admitted that amid the Covid-19 global pandemic, the South African LGBTQI+ community was still fighting unending hate crimes.
The organisation recalled some of the brutal murders of young LGBTQI+ individuals that occurred in the past few months alone.
“On Human Rights Day, 16-year-old Liyabona Mabishi was brutally killed by three men. She had accidentally bumped into them, after which she apologised, but the men then went on to stab Liyabona to death, while a friend who was with her was left severely injured.
“In February, LGBTQI+ activist Lindokuhle Cele was brutally stabbed and killed in full view of the public. This was as a result of hate from the perpetrator of Cele's sexuality.
“LGBTQI+ movements and organisations recently received the news of the death of a sex worker, Robyn Montsumi, who died in police custody.”
The organisation said it has been monitoring hate-crime-related cases over several years and to date many of them have not been solved, while the recent cases will take years before they see the door of a courtroom.
Just last week, the nation was shocked by yet another hate crime, the killing of Cape Town dancer Kirvan Fortuin.
Fortuin was the recipient of several prestigious awards both locally and internationally from the government, civil society and the arts world. The talented choreographer was also an activist against homophobia.
According to the Artscape Theatre Centre, Fortuin established the Kirvan Fortuin Foundation and Fortuin Dance Theatre and had provided several employment opportunities to dancers and choreographers across South Africa.
The Triangle Project said it was doing its best to advocate and fight for the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community. However, it was shameful that a nation committed to uniting against the coronavirus pandemic was unable to fight together against gender-based violence and LGBTIQ- related hate crimes, it added.
Despite the challenges faced by the LGBTQI community, young South African men and women continue to persevere and cement their place in the workplace, universities, civil society, the government and on the international stage.
According to the director of operations at Impulse Cape Town and former Miss Gay Western Cape, Wendy LaRosa, in recent years many LGBTQ+ youth have become increasingly aware of their surroundings and how to protect themselves.
LaRosa added that these individuals have become a lot more outspoken with their pronouns, their sexual orientation and identity.
“In this day and age we are also grateful that so many parents have become a lot more accepting and they themselves are learning about diverse genders.”
LaRosa said that with all these positives in mind, the youth were still finding themselves being ridiculed and/or misunderstood due to their gender identity.
“We still hear of young lesbians being brutally murdered or have experienced 'corrective rape' due to their sexual orientation. It's still a struggle for many young people of colour who have to fight stereotypes and discrimination.”
But there has been some positive change.
"'Coming out' is almost a thing of the past as more and more people find themselves exiting the closet safely and with huge support," said LaRosa.