Sonke urgently calls on South Africa to vote YES on UN resolution to address discrimination and violence against LGBTI and gender nonconforming people

Sonke Gender Justice joins nearly a 100 civil society organisations calling on DIRCO Minister Nkoana-Mashabane to instruct a YES vote today in support of the Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (#SOGI, and to follow through with South Africa’s commitments to convene a Regional Seminar on Ending Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Africa as committed to more than a year ago. South Africa needs to lead on this as an African country with a constitution that promotes non-discrimination, tolerance and equality. LGBTI and gender nonconforming people throughout Africa, especially those being persecuted or having their sexual and gender identity criminalised, urgently need South Africa’s leadership on this!

We also ask our friends to please tweet and share on social media:

SA #VoteYESForSOGI to uphold our Constitutional commitment to #humanrights. The world is watching you! @PresidencyZA @ClaysonMonyela #DIRCO

Here is the letter that was sent to the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) by dozens of civil society organisations :


Johannesburg, South Africa
The Minister
International Relations and Co-operation
South Africa
ATTENTION: Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

Dear Minister

RE: The Human Rights Council 27TH SESSION, September 2014:

Resolution: Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity [A/HRC/27/L27]

On behalf of the undersigned organisations, we write to draw your urgent attention to Resolution A/HRC/27/L27 tabled at the Human Rights Council on Thursday 18 September by Chile, Uruguay, Colombia and Brazil and to urge and insist you act in keeping with your human rights obligations in this regard by voting YES to the Resolution in its current tabled version. The operational paragraphs call for a minimum of a follow up report to the Report of the High Commissioner of November 2011 on Violence and Discrimination on the basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and for follow up reports every two years.

As you know, this is, more than three years later, a follow up to 17/19 led by South Africa, and is important as a way to keep dialogue at the Human Rights Council sustained and to ensure that the issue does not fall off the agenda of the Council. Here on the African continent, many of our fellow activists, colleagues and fellow human rights defenders view this Resolution as a way to draw the attention of states to an issue that forces many into an unnecessary and unjust confrontation with the law and criminalises sex between consenting adults with a wide range of consequences for our right to development.

We are disappointed that your Ministry has recently repeatedly failed to represent the position of South Africa on this issue with the same commitment and determination it did in 2011. This disappointment has been based on your repeated failure to keep your commitment and word on the issue of the Regional Seminar coupled with a refusal to respond to numerous requests for information on plans for the hosting of the Regional Seminar. We still look forward to and to expect South Africa to continue principled leadership on this matter in a range of intergovernmental processes internationally and to demonstrate accountability to the principles of the Constitution as well as respect for the right to development framework which includes transparency, accountability and participation.

We remind you and call your attention to your obligation to promote the respect for the human rights of all people, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and to use the opportunity afforded by your own leadership at the Human Rights Council on this issue in the past to begin to confront violence and discrimination targeted at this part of the community.

Minister, we further call your attention to an oral amendment which is expected from the floor during the vote on this Resolution A/HRC/27/L27. Such a proposed amendment would call for the removal from 27/L27 all language on sexual orientation and gender identity and the replacement with language equal or roughly equal to “race, colour, sex, language, religion or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. Our organisations are all committed to and passionate about and have a track record in local and international work in applying an analysis that includes multiple forms of discrimination and intersectional analyses. In 2013, we mobilised support for the 10 May Statement which asserted the need for any follow up resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity to use an intersectional and incremental lens. Our work as feminists and pan Africanists is based on such thought and standards.

At the same time, the proposed language will deny and attempt to erase and hide from the lived realities of people facing violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression who are targeted for violation, violence and discrimination. This is what such an amendment will attempt to do and will contribute to. South Africa cannot be party to such an amendment and indeed, should be at the forefront of reaching out to states to dissuade them from such a move. The Human Rights Council is about human rights. We expect and trust that our rights as African people with non-conforming sexualities and gender identities and expressions will not be negotiated away for political expediency at the Council.

Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, we the undersigned now call upon you to:

  1. Issue the appropriate directive for a vote in support of the Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression when it tabled later this week as it stands within the version tabled by the lead states.
  2. Reach out to your colleagues who may be calling for the abovementioned amendments and to work to persuade them to desist from such a move and to issue a directive to the South African delegation in Geneva to vote against such an oral amendment from the floor at the vote which may seek to change the intention to show urgency to the need to protect rights related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

We look forward to remaining in dialogue on this issue throughout the week and to a progressive vote on this Resolution.Our colleagues from the Sexual Rights Initiative are available for dialogue in Geneva all of this week.

Minister, we look forward also to your leadership on the Regional Seminar on Ending Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Africa as per your own announcement and commitment in March this year and the staff of your Department since June 2013. This Seminar will provide much needed dialogue on the continent to begin to stem the tide of violence and discrimination faced my millions of people on the continent based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. We will be popularising the ideas, analysis and policy imperatives emerging from the powerful speech by the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini at the general Assembly in New York last week [19 September]. We will continue to advocate to see these ideas reflected in South Africa’s domestic and international policy positions and work.

We continue to follow the proceedings at the Council very closely this week, together with our more than 80 member and partner organisations in more than 30 African states. We will also all be watching the proceedings online both in South Africa and in various fora in each sub-region on the continent. We will direct the media to this facility online also.

Thank you for your leadership in this important moment on rights related to sexuality and gender.

In solidarity and anticipation.

  1. AIDS Accountability International
  2. Access Chapter 2
  3. African Men for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
  4. Coalition of African Lesbians
  5. Durban Gay and Lesbian Centre
  6. Forum for the Empowerment of Women
  7. Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action
  8. One in Nine Campaign
  9. Sonke Gender Justice
  10. South African National AIDS Council – Civil Society Forum
  11. Triangle Project

Additional Endorsements


  1. SuntoshPillay, King Dinuzulu Hospital Complex, Durban, South African
  2. EstianSmit, Gender diverse activist, South Africa
  3. UmeshBawa, Clinical Psychologist, University of the Western Cape
  4. Dr. Tracy Morison, PhD, Human and Social Development research unit, HSRC
  5. Dr. Elaine Salo, South Africa/USA
  6. Yvette Abrahams, Gender Equality Commissioner, SA
  7. Ivy FungaiRutize, Human Rights Feminist Activist, Zimbabwe
  8. MzikaziNduna, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
  9. Melanie Judge, South Africa
  10. Nicolette August, South Africa
  11. Sophia Lugilahe, Tanzania
  12. Beth Buchanan, South Africa
  13. AsandaBenya, WITS University, South Africa
  14. Chris Stander, South Africa

South African/Regional Organisations

  1. African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET), Pan-African
  2. AIDS Legal Network, South Africa
  3. Center for the Right to Health, Nigeria
  4. Deo Gloria Family Church, South Africa
  5. DISA Health Care, South Africa
  6. Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW)
  7. Free Gender (FunekaSoldaat), South Africa
  8. Geiheis Collective, South Africa
  9. Gay & Lesbian Network, PMB, South Africa
  10. Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), Zimbabwe
  11. Gender Dynamix, South Africa
  12. Gender Transformation Network, South Africa
  13. Good Hope Metropolitan Community Church, South Africa
  14. Health4Men, Anova Health Institute, South Africa
  15. HOPEM Network, Mozambique
  16. Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM), South Africa
  17. The Inner Circle, South Africa
  18. Iranti-org, South Africa
  19. Kydesa Rainbow Community, Kenya
  20. LifeLine NW Rustenburg Centre, South Africa
  21. Matrix Support Group LGBTI, Lesotho
  22. The New Women’s Movement, South Africa
  23. Network of African People Living with HIV (NAPSAR+), Southern Africa Region
  24. The Networking HIV, AIDS Community of South Africa (NACOSA), South Africa
  25. The Nucleus Association Mavalane against Drugs and AIDS, Mozambique
  26. Out In Africa, Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, South Africa
  27. OUT LGBT Well-being, South Africa
  28. Partners in Sexual Health, South Africa
  29. PASSOP LGBTI Refugee Support and Advocacy Project, South Africa
  30. People Empowering People Africa, Cameroon
  31. People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), South Africa
  32. Positive Women’s Network, South Africa
  33. PsySSA – the Psychological Society of South Africa (Sexuality and Gender Division), South Africa
  34. Rainbow Identity Association, Botswana
  35. Rainbow WSU, South Africa
  36. SAFAIDS Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi and South Africa
  37. Section 27, South Africa
  38. Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), South Africa
  39. Sexual Rights Centre, Zimbabwe
  40. Simply Said and Done, South Africa
  41. South African Education and Environment Project (SAEP), South Africa
  42. South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) Men’s Sector, South Africa
  43. Southern African AIDS Trust, South Africa
  44. Soweto HIV/AIDS Counsellors Association/National LGBTI Health Campaign, South Africa
  45. The Centre for the Study of AIDS, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  46. Transgender and Intersex Africa, Pan-African
  47. Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa
  48. Voices of Women in Western Kenya, Kenya
  49. Wellness Foundation, South Africa
  50. Women’s Health and Equal Rights (WHER) Initiative, Nigeria
  51. The Women’s Leadership Centre, Namibia
  52. WISH Associates, South Africa
  53. Young Women’s Knowledge and Leadership Institute (YOWLI) Burundi
  54. Zambia Association for the prevention of HIV and Tuberculosis (ZAPHIT), Zambia

Global Organisations

  1. Association for Progressive Communications, International
  2. Association of Transgender People in the Philippines (ATP), Philippines
  3. CURE Foundation, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  4. David Kato Foundation, USA
  5. Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, Fiji
  6. Gayten-LGBT, Center for Promotion of LGBTIQ Human Rights, Serbia
  7. Oneworld – Platform for Southeast Europe, Bosnia Herzegovina
  8. Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (Strap Kababaihan, Inc.), Philippines
  10. Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), International

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