THE plight of queer university students who are victims of domestic violence and homophobia at home during lockdown was raised at a webinar on Wednesday.
Human Rights organisation The Triangle Project warned of two cases where students committed suicide because of the homophobia and rejection at home.
The webinar was titled “Domestic violence in South Africa: What do we really know about the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown”.
When South Africa first went into lockdown in March 2020 many university students who stayed in residences on and off-campus were forced to move back home. Sadly, for students in the LGBTQI+ community, this meant moving back to homes where their sexual orientation was undisclosed or not accepted.
More than a year later, many universities are still operating online and this affected students.
The Triangle Project director Elsbeth Engelbrecht was concerned about a lack of referral pathways for LGBTQI+ people who needed support.
“This often means that other LGBTQI+ people provide temporary shelter. We have had two suicides during this period linked to homophobia in families and children being rejected and kicked out of homes,” she said.
Research associate of the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies at Wits University Lisa Vetten said that domestic violence was experienced differently by different people.
“Queer students had to go home and live in family environments where they are not accepted. There have been reports of them experiencing violence,” she said.
Director of the Gender Equity Office at the University of Wits Charlene Beukes raised concerns about students being in lockdown with their abusers.
“During the school term, they (students) would usually have escaped that abuse. Students part of the queer community have no support structures in their own homes.”
Beukes said some students weren’t out to their families.
“They went from a space where they were living as queer students on campus and having to ‘go back into the closet’ to survive lockdown.”
She added: “Thankfully, we created a WhatsApp support group where we could check in with them daily.”
Beukes recalled how students families had refused to provide them with meals or housing after finding out about their queer identity.
The added challenge with this came with rehousing students to shelters.
“The difficulty came with students not wanting to be housed in shelters because of what that would mean,” Beukes said.