Advocates take SA government to task over gay rights

2014-01-28 14:53

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The body that represents the majority of South Africa’s advocates has criticised the government over its refusal to denounce gay rights abuses in Africa.

In a press statement, Ishmael Semenya, chair of the General Council of the Bar, implores the government to uphold and respect the values of the Constitution internationally.

“South Africa is rightly seen as a beacon of hope for the advancement and protection of human rights around the world – including the rights of gay, lesbian, transgender and intersex people.

“The General Council of the Bar calls on the government to live up to this reputation, to set the right example to its own citizens and to the rest of the world, and to condemn anti-gay legislation and practices wherever they exist,” he said.

Earlier this month, there was an international outcry when Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.

Nigeria is one of nearly 40 African countries that are criminalising homosexuality in some way.

Critics have pointed out that the South African government, which has not publicly condemned gay rights abuses, has a constitutional duty to uphold the values of the Constitution.

Section 9 of the Constitution provides that all are equal before the law and that no person may be unfairly discriminated against, including unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Semenya said: “Our Constitution, which entrenches human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms as core values, implores the government to uphold and respect such values, not only domestically, but also internationally.”

This press statement could be seen as sign of a further cooling in the relationship between the government and the body.

The General Council of the Bar has persistently been at loggerheads with the government over the Legal Practice Bill, which the body believes will sound the death knell for an independent advocate’s profession.

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