17 May 2012

The LGBTI community celebrates the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia

The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) was launched in 2004 and initiatives and events are coordinated worldwide to garner support for the respect and recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

May 17 was chosen as the official date to celebrate this event as a way of commemorating the decision by the World Health Organisation to remove homosexuality as a mental disorder in the list of ‘diseases'.

The event has gained momentum over the years as more LGBTI organisations from around the world have joined to support the initiative. Events to celebrate this day have been staged in Congo, China and Bulgaria according to the IDAHO website.

In commemoration of this day, the LGBTI community in South Africa staged a march to the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg against a call by a member of parliament, Phathekile Holomisa, that a clause in the South African constitution which guarantees equal rights to LGBTI people be removed.

Holomisa is a traditional chief of the AmaGebe Tribe in the Eastern Cape; he is a President of the Congress of Traditional Healers of South Africa; he also chairs the Joint Constitutional Review Committee. These are some of the factors that the LGBTI community finds unsettling - he is a man of influence.

The march was planned by LGBTI organisations and the aim was to deliver a memorandum to the constitutional court tabling all the objections against Holomisa's proposition. Unfortunately, this did not materialise.

Stanley Mabena from Behind The Mask, an LGBTI organisation explains: "Firstly there was poor turnout owing to the poor publicity undertaken to promote the march. Secondly, we were unable to handover the memorandum because nobody came to accept it. Someone then informed us that the constitutional court does not accept memorandums. They only entertain cases referred to by the other courts," he said.

SAHA's engagement with the LGBTI sector

SAHA has been involved in various initiatives to facilitate capacity-building within the LGBTI sector around South Africa and other countries in the region. SAHA's Freedom of Information Programme has run trainings to teach the LGBTI community how to use the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) in their advocacy work.

SAHA also developed materials to raise awareness about the right to information as well as to assist the LGBTI sector in accessing information crucial to their advocacy work:

DOWNLOAD: 'Accessing Information in the LGBTI Sector'

This guide is designed to assist persons in the LGBTI sector to recognise the important role that access to information can play in the achievement of their advocacy goals. The guide will also help people in the LGBTI sector to make PAIA requests, by providing information on some of the more challenging aspects of using PAIA.

DOWNLOAD: 'LGBTI and Access to Information in Africa'

This guide is designed to raise awareness of the right to information in Africa, providing details of the legal basis of the right and highlighting the link between access to information and issues facing LGBTI people in the region.