23 February 2012

Despite advances in hiring practices, equality remains distant for LGBTI persons working in South Africa

Many government departments and other entities have not complied with their requirement to adopt a plan that assists the state in eliminating discrimination and promoting equality, according to a series of PAIA requests made on behalf of leaders within South Africa's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Intersex communities (LGBTI) as part of SAHA's FOIP Capacity Building Project

The regulations to the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act demand that each government department produce a plan that outlines the challenges faced in terms of unfair discrimination and inequality, the goals sought to be achieved by that department, and the details of how the plan will be implemented, such that the obstacles can be overcome and the goals achieved.

SAHA requested copies of equality plans, along with employment equity policies, of several government departments, hospitals, churches, and private entities. No requests led to the disclosure of such a plan and it became apparent that many of the requestees were unaware of their obligation to produce such a document under the law. Notably, the Department of Health acknowledged that no equality plan had been created, but that they intended to produce one.

Most of the requestees that provided a response produced employment equity policies or statistics of some kind. On occasion they also included the forms that could be used to launch grievances against the body. While these documents do not act as a substitute for an equality plan, it is a positive revelation that internal policies have been adopted by a number of bodies to assist in the promotion of equality within the workforce.

Although most requestees produced a copy of an employment equity policy, the focus of each was on equal representation of minorities within the relevant body or organization. The responses SAHA received had very little to say about the prevention of discrimination within the workforce, which is also an essential part of equality.

This is a problematic trend which must be addressed. There is little question that seeking out a representative proportion of LGBTI persons in building a workforce would have a positive impact on developing a culture of equality. However, it is insufficient to incorporate LGBTI persons into an organization without also providing safeguards that protect their right to be free from discrimination. Only then will members of the LGBTI community, and other victims of discrimination, be able to reach their full potential in a modern work environment.

Copies of the released materials are available in SAHA's collections, archived as "The subsequent South African Police Service employment equity plan for the period 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2014", "Acknowledgement of successful completion of employment equity report for the year 2010 report period", "Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Policy" and, "A letter with information and statistics of complaints which relate to unfair discrimination from 200906-22 to 2011-05-13", respectively:

Freedom of Information Programme Collection: AL2878_A11.01

Freedom of Information Programme Collection: AL2878_A11.02

Freedom of Information Programme Collection: AL2878_A11.03

Freedom of Information Programme Collection: AL2878_A11.04

For more information on this story, please contact the FOIP team at SAHA.