UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng apologises to LGBTQI+ community for 'hurt' caused by online event

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University of Cape Town  Vice Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng.
University of Cape Town Vice Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng.
Esa Alexander, Gallo Images
  • UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng has apologised to the LGBTQIA+ community over an online event she held on social media platforms.
  • Phakeng and urologist Dr Kgomotso Mathabe discussed inter-sexed babies, gays, lesbians and transgendered persons.
  • Mathabe was condemned for saying that inter-sexed condition is life threatening.

University of Cape Town (UCT) vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng, who came under fire from activists over her online event about the LGBTQIA+ community, has apologised.

Phakeng hosted an online discussion series titled: "What does science say about LGBTQIA+?"

Her guest was a urologist at Steve Biko Hospital in Pretoria, Dr Kgomotso Mathabe. The discussion centred around intersex babies, gays, lesbians and transgender persons.

She said in her apology:

I apologise without reserve for the hurt and distress these events caused, not only to the LGBTQIA+ community, but to everyone that are concerned about our shared quest for dignity and humanity for all. To further that quest amidst the hurt and distress and anger, I have decided to have engagements with the LGBTQIA+ community over the next two months.

UCT said Phakeng was committed to transformation, inclusivity and diversity, and that she was deeply saddened by the pain the event caused.

"Her intention with the session was to bring a spotlight to matters that marginalise and deeply hurt the LGBTQIA+ community and this was done in an effort to bring change. Unfortunately, even though the intention was good, she got it wrong in this one instance, and she has now offered an authentic, heartfelt apology," the institution said in a statement on Friday.

The Gender Diversity Coalition called for action to be taken against Phakeng, condemning her "harmful" event. 

"The public outrage on all social media platforms responds to the innate violence and harms this seminar has caused on trans and intersex persons and their families who feel the daily violence of medical and pathologised diagnosis that have no positive outcome on their lives.

"The Gender Diversity Coalition has long ascertained that the Steve Biko Hospital Gender Clinic is a violent and medically unsafe place for intersex-born children and for trans persons who wish to medically transition, either through hormones and/or surgeries."

The organisation said Mathabe provided misinformation regarding intersex-born children when she said "intersex is a condition that is potentially life-threatening".

"The Gender Diversity Coalition outrightly condemns intersex genital mutilation (IGM) and the harming of intersex-born children. Human bodies include a wide spectrum of healthy variations in sex characteristics at birth that are part of human diversity, which must be valued, respected and protected, and not  medically and surgically violated."

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