UCT receives criticism for hosting Chimamanda Adichie
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AN announcement that UCT would host Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for the Vice-Chancellor’s Open Lecture later this month has been met with criticism from the LGBTQ+ community.
On Friday, UCT vice-chancellor professor Mamokgethi Phakeng announced that Adichie would deliver the VC’s opening lecture virtually on Wednesday, July 28.
“We are looking forward to this exciting lecture where Adichie’s eloquence and perspective will inspire all of us to look beyond stereotypes and social norms to recognise our common humanity,” said Phakeng.
The announcement of the lecture received a wave of negative responses.
Adichie received criticism from members of the LGBTQ+ community for comments she made in a 2017 interview with the UK’s Channel 4 News.
In the interview, she was asked: “Does it matter how you’ve arrived at being a woman? If you're a trans woman who grew up identifying as a man ... does that take away from becoming a woman – are you any less of a real woman?”
Adichie answered: “When people talk about 'Are trans women, women?' my feeling is trans women are trans women.”
UCT head of media liaison Nombuso Shabalala said that Adichie apologised for her 2017 remarks, stating that she would continue to stand up for the rights of transgender people.
When asked how the choice to host Adichie would affect their students and staff who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, UCT declined to comment.
In 2018, UCT launched their inclusivity policy for sexual orientation which aims to “create an environment that respects and celebrates inclusion of sexually diverse staff and students on campus”.
Lindy-Lee Prince, who graduated with a PhD in anthropology at UCT this past week, said it doesn’t add up that the university would invite Adichie to be a speaker.
“It will alienate a lot of people from engaging with the work that the VC is doing,” Prince said.
Prince added: “The students, activists and SRC have done so much work to progress inclusivity, and to make trans- and gender-diverse people more comfortable on campus.
“This is a slap in the face.”
Anil Padavatan, programmes manager at Gender Dynamix, said that in the context of the surge in violence against the LGBTQ+ community, UCT should consider the implications this might have.
“We would prefer a platform like this to be given to someone who respects the human rights of all people, and who could speak to the need for an inclusive feminist response to gender-based violence,” said Padavatan.