By Selokela Molamodi
What happened to the Prevention of hate crimes and hate speech bill?
Democracy and diversity sound like two concepts that can co-exist without conflict. However, the realities of vulnerable groups such as the LGBTQIA+ community have proven that these two concepts live worlds part. The recent spotlight that has been shone on the brutal and merciless killings of this diverse group of people.
In a webinar hosted by ACTIVATE! , a number of issues were brought to light. The biggest issue was the passing of the Bill of hate speech and hate crimes. In the webinar, Advocate Lwandiso Kwababana(Department of Justice and Correctional Services), Thiruna Naidoo( Communication and Advocacy at the Centre for Human Rights and Roche Kester (Hate crimes manager at Out LGBT Wellbeing) were the panelists at the webinar. They did a fantastic job at explaining what the bill is about and what it meant. What was mostly significant from their expert opinions was the fact that hate crimes and hate speech were explicitly defined in order to protect members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The passing of this bill is just as important as the execution. There is no point in having policies that do not directly benefit the people it was meant to protect.
The hosts of the webinar, Sipho Mnisi and Nkokheli Mankayi, ensured that all attendees had ample time and opportunity to ask questions to the panelists. This created an environment of inclusivity and safety thus ensuring that everyone participated. During the questions and remarks, it was evident that many young people do want to get involved. However, an abundance and/or lack of information leads to the behavior that is exuded on social media, in churches, in workspaces and any other place where people gather. Most young people have so many questions pertaining to how they could help create awareness but they do not have the correct avenues to do so. As a result, they allow the clutches of fear to get the better of them, thereby leading to unjustifiable behavior.
Another important issue that was highlighted during the webinar was the role of the media. It is impossible to discuss such a pressing matter and not allude to media. Mainstream media still continues to be the source of information and entertainment for many South African households. This means the perceptions that many people have of the LGBTQIA+ community are as a result of what they watch on their screens. For the longest time, gay characters have been used as comic relief. The character would always be a flamboyant, loudmouth who has no real life problems and exists somewhere far away from society. This picture has been problematic for the longest time because it has perpetuated the notion that all gay people are feminine and colorful. However, this is true. The same is true to lesbian women. They are somehow usually characterized as angry and bitter women who simply want to avoid contact with men. In hindsight, this invalidates the reality that these women were born this way.
Homosexuality and queerness have been a part of our society for as long as humanity has existed. It is only the terms that we need to learn and the new flow of information that we need to consciously and intentionally learn. There is no shying away from the fact that members LGBTQIA+ are part of our families, workspaces, social setups and so much more. They are not strangers or aliens from some unknown planet. The LGBTIA+ community does not only colour social fabric, they make up the DNA of our social fabric. If we fail to understand them, then we do not understand the essence of democracy and diversity.