Hate crimes are not yet recognized as unique crimes under South African law and there are no reliable figures about the extent of the problem in the country. Although South Africa is one of the few countries that recognises same-sex marriages, hate crimes are still prevalent.
Recent studies show that homophobia is still a major problem. A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that up to 61 per cent of South Africans believe society should not accept homosexuality.
Cleary Park in Port Elizabeth’s Northern Areas was abuzz with entertainment recently as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community held their first festival in the area. Although the turnout was disappointing those who attended had a good time. There were more lesbians than gays and they blamed this on the way the LGBTI community is still treated by their communities. The festival also represented all skin colours.
The festival was organised by the Masincedane organisation which is made up of the OUT!ology network, ECGLA, Sibanye, Manyano, Walmer LGBTIs, Circle of Genders and Eloquor Knights.
The morning session had speakers from different stakeholders, like the Eastern Cape Department of Health, Anova men’s health, and Victim empowerment centres all gave speeches about how to be safe in the LGBTI community. The few members who attended were entertained by local artists. The event forms part of the collective’s ongoing campaign to highlight and address hate crime. The morning session ended with an One love march in the streets of Salsoneville. As they marched down the streets of Salsoneville accompanied by the police displaying placards which asked community members to accept them.
One of the few gays who attended the march, Shamus Kasper, 34, said the turnout was disappointing. He wore high heels and a weave.
Kasper said a lot of gay people are having difficulties coming out in the Northern areas.
“We are always called derogatory names and our lives are at risk. Last year a friend of mine was murdered for being gay. Some people only come out after 9PM. On my side I was lucky that my parents accepted the person I am. I had problems with a few family members but what mattered was the fact that I was accepted by my parents. I remember when I first came out a couple of years back my mama said to me she knew all along but was just waiting for me to come out and be comfortable with who I am,” he said.
Kristabelle Tshotyana, 26, who is transgender and in the early stages of transitioning, said that through the march they want to educate community members about the LGBTI community.
“People are still ashamed of who they are. By organising these festivals we want people to know that it is OK being part of the LGBTI. They have not committed any sin. Even though there is a small number of people who came, our presence does make an impact in the community,” Tshotyana said.
Paul Botha from Anova Health4Men, health institute who was part of the One Love march said the march was about creating the synergy between health facilities and communities.
“Our job is to train nurses to cater for the medical needs of the LGBTI community because gay people also get anal STIs but don’t know what it is. We also do health talks so that people accessing clinics can feel safe and not get to be called names,” Botha said.
Transgender, Paballo Mpoka who is now on hormonal therapy closed the event on a high note with her/his exotic dance moves