LGBTIQ under focus

Pharie Sefari, tells President of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Barbara Unmeussig, about the struggles of the LGBTIQ community in townships. Unmeussig visited the country to lean more about this community. PHOTO: Mandla Mahashe
Pharie Sefari, tells President of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Barbara Unmeussig, about the struggles of the LGBTIQ community in townships. Unmeussig visited the country to lean more about this community. PHOTO: Mandla Mahashe

Cape Town is regarded as the gay capital of Africa, but township LGBT groups sing a different tune, as homosexuals still face a barrage of challenges for who they are.

On Tuesday, two groups, the LGBT Traditional Healers and Free Gender, held a lunch meeting with the president of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Barbara Unmeussig.

Heinrich Boll is a German independent political organisation with special attention to democracy and human rights worldwide.

According to Unmeussig the organisation has a special interest in LGBTIQ community across the globe and the trip is for her to gain grassroots experience of the challenges faced by its members in the townships.

“The focus into this community was raised by me as I felt that it was very important especially in countries such as a South Africa.

There is a good legislation and there is a strong constitution that seeks to protect gay people but there are still problems with attitudes.

In countries like these, our role is to work with partner organisations to raise awareness and hopefully change mindset,” she said.

Funeka Soldaat, the founder of township lesbian organisation Free Gender, relayed how due to lack of outrage and community activism following the killing of a lesbians they were forced to start the organisation.

“In our communities, when something like that takes place the community gets together and seeks to find a solution but when lesbians were killed, this did not happen.

So in 2008 we began just as a few people to form a sort of support group but in 2010 we started to establish an organisation called Free Gender,” she said.

She went on to state some of the problems that they faced, some of which they still do.

“There was a stigma and fear as a lesbian. Whenever there is a crime committed against a lesbian, police would just not take it seriously.

So we worked hard to start a forum to meet with the Khayelitsha Police Cluster to make sure that hate crimes are given a priority,” she said.

She added that despite now having a working relationship with the police, lesbians still face discrimination in the public.

Pharie Sefari, speaking as part of LGBTIQ Traditional Healers, spoke the need for homosexual healers to have their own organisations.

“In communities where a person is gay, they are often taken to traditional healers in order to cure them.

There was also a perception that homosexuals were not able to become healers so we started this organisation.

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