In Praise of Sandy Kalyan

2014-02-25 15:47

DA Deputy Chief Whip, Sandy Kalyan MP (www.da.org.za)

I am not in the habit of writing ‘hagiographic-like’ pieces praising politicians. In my experience, they do little to deserve such praise. And it’s more fun pointing out what’s wrong with them anyway. But there those rare occasions. And today is one such example.

Sandy Kalyan MP, the Democratic Alliance’s Deputy Chief Whip, is not a household name outside of South Africa’s parliamentary village. Indeed, I would be surprised if many knew who she is – before today. For those interested in equality law, that is a crying shame.

Earlier today Kalyan attempted to move a motion in the National Assembly which would have had the effect of the South African Government condemning the passage of Uganda’s draconian anti-gay laws. The ANC in Parliament blocked the move.

Kalyan has released a powerful statement rebuking the ANC for its supposed lacking commitment to promoting human rights in Africa and for failing to make this a key cornerstone of the country’s foreign policy (see statement here: Zuma’s ANC rejects DA motion).

Even though there is no doubt that the increasing anti-gay sentiment sweeping across the continent could never take grip in South Africa, as Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor stated in response to questions from journalists, the dark and terrible fate that many homosexual and queer men and women now face is worrisome. And that South Africa is hiding behind the paltry defence of ‘not commenting on legislation in other countries’ and doing nothing makes it even worse.

For let’s not forget that during Apartheid, frontier states were praised for making South Africa’s internal issue of ‘separate development’ very much their concern. And the ANC had no shortage of harsh words for the UK and the USA’s respective leaders, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan, and their supposed failure to act accordingly. It is deeply disappointing that a party who advocated for and relied on international support to overcome racial segregation at home cannot lend their voice in support to those who face similar denigration abroad. At worst it is callous negligence and at best it is rank hypocrisy.

How the moral authority of the ANC is now diminished!

Whatever you think of Kalyan, or her political affiliation, those who have watched her 15 year parliamentary career will see this as no surprise. When South Africa was struggling to institutionalise equality after the landmark Constitutional Court ruling in Fourie, which compelled the state to create equal marriage laws for same-sex couples, Kalyan made some very brave speeches in favour of full equality before and under the law. Kalyan has consistently and courageously positioned the DA as being pro-equality even when many in her own parliamentary caucus voted against the Civil Union Bill (as it then was). A close friend of mine told me that her brave displays in the House convinced him to join the DA. It is not hard to understand why.

During Apartheid, Helen Suzman, at great personal cost, was praised for being a lone voice in the fight against racial segregation. Through her efforts not only was the conscience of South Africa and the world prickled as to the injustice of that brutal system, she remained a bright star in a dark chamber attempting to shine the light of truth on an uncaring state. While Kalyan is certainly not alone in the fight for complete equality, her efforts will mark her career, however long or short it may be, as a distinguished one. In a world where those of non-heteronormative sexual orientations have to fight for the basics that ‘straight’ people take for granted, they can be proud to know that they will have champions in all manner of places. Kalyan is certainly one of them.   And for this, at least, she deserves nothing but praise.

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