The never ending struggle for equality

2011-12-21 01:50

The murder of a lesbian in Khayelitsha several years ago sparked outrage amongst the gay community, the reaction became even worse after the case was posponed more than 20 times.

This case highlighted the the weaknesses of our justice system to deal with hate crimes. Our beloved constitution guarantees rights and equal enjoyment of them but sadly it cannot guarantee that your rights will not be violated.

Whilst the higher courts try their best to remedy the situation, the entire system does not seem to support the efforts of the higher courts.

The constitutional court may deliver landmark judgements but the magistrates, prosecutors and SAPS do not seem to play ball.

The constitution says we are all equal before the law but truthfully we are not and we will never enjoy the rights equally. If one wants to take up a hate crime case, they better have the financial support for it or give up fighting for their rights.

In the case of the murdered lesbian it leaves quite a lot of unanswered question as to who should be blamed for the case taking this long to conclude.

Is it the police? did they fail go collect evidence as they are mandated by the constitution or there was no evidence to collect? if so why were the people arrested?

Then there is the prosecution which depends a lot on the evidence gathered by the police, the job of the prosecutor is to then use the evidence to secure a conviction.

Or was it the family not having enough money to pay for better lawyers?

This case is sad because it leaves the gay community wondering why it has taken this long to deliver a verdict when other cases never take this long; this one has to be the longest trial in the Khayelitsha magistrate court. Is it perhaps her sexuality or the police did a crappy job when gathering the evidence?

Never mind Zoliswa's sexuality, everybody wants to see justice when they have been wronged. When this is delayed, the community tends to get frustrated.

This then leads to good old people's justice where a mob catches the suspect/s and kills them.

We would not want that to be the norm but such cases motivate the community to resort to such action when the justice system fails the victims.

Not too long ago we were promised an overhaul of the justice system but we have yet to see that. Some are calling for the death penalty which shows you just how fed up with crime people are.

In an ideal equal society we would not be talking about justice for the gay community but justice for all victims of crime not to single out gay people as though they are special, equality is what we want after all.

But it becomes necessary to have special units when the circumstances demand such and one for hate crimes is needed; not just hate crimes against gay people but all hate crimes such as racism, corrective rape, forced circumcision and so on.

The current laws are adequate but the enforcement is what is lacking hence the gay community feels somewhat neglected. And victims of rape not reporting cases because they have lost confidence in the justice system.

Of course we have lawyers to ensure that those who dare undermine our rights pay but lawyers cost money and we have millions unemployed and more millions barely making enough to live on.

This means that we cannot all enjoy legal protection legally, of course the state will tell you about legal aid and the human rights commission.

I once applied for legal aid, made countless visits and phone calls to their office and more than a year later I have not heard from them. The last time I checked they said they were busy assessing the merit of my case and that they would get back to me. Maybe they are still dialing my number or typing the email but nothing has happened since then.

Then there was the South African Human Rights Commission, also took a year to refer my complaint to the Public Protector after numerous visits to their offices to enquire about my complaint.

So when the institutions that are entrusted with the protection of our rights fail us, who do we turn to?

Gay or straight, man or woman, adult or child, black or white, rich or poor, we all have equal rights guaranteed by the Supreme law of the land and the state is to ensure that we all enjoy those rights.

They remain nothing but ink on white paper for many of us. Some will even die without ever enjoying our freedom which came with a huge price tag. We should all share the fruits of our freedom.


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