Defending the rights of minorities

Defending the rights of minorities

A few weeks ago I was in a forum that was discussing gender issues. As I sat in the hall one day waiting for the session to begin, one lady came in and greeted us. I liked her greeting because it was quite unique. She went something like “Good morning ladies, gentlemen and others.”
The ever inquisitive I picked the word “others.” I remembered that when I applied for admission to one South African University, the options for sex were written as Male, Female or Other.
Meaning that one is not forced or restricted to identify themselves as male or female if they feel that they do not belong to those two categories.

I also noticed that in Lesotho we are still confined to male or female only and we do not cover the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community as some of them do not identify themselves as male or female.
I got interested in the LGBTI community issues and in my journey discovered that laws that affect the lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersex differ from country to country and territory to territory.

Religious convictions also play a central role in relation to the rights of LGBTI community. For instance when Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s daughter, Rev. Cannon Mpho Tutu van Furth married her long time Dutch girlfriend, she was between a rock and hard place as she had to choose between priesthood and marriage, she chose the latter.
The dilemma that Rev. Cannon Tutu van Furth had to endure is just an example of what the LGBTI community face on a daily basis.
Closer to home, there is one school in Quthing Lesotho that defied the norms and allowed a “girl” to dress in a boy uniform. We were in aghast of such a practice as we felt the school was too liberal and in the process destroying our culture and also allowing ill-discipline.

That was our socialisation talking. We allowed our stereotypes and prejudices blind us to the fact that the school was being accommodating and living by the true spirit of education for all.
I then wanted to know the stance of the Lesotho government in relation to the rights of the LGBTI community that is part of us. I found that Lesotho as a country has not yet pronounced its stance in relation to LGBTI rights.

I think it is time that the Government make its stance clear in this regard. This is because there are minor issues to those of us who call themselves straight that adversely affect the LGBTI community.

The constitution of Lesotho, 1993, in Section 18(2) stipulates that, “subject to the provisions of subsection (6), no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting by virtue of any written law or the performance of the functions of any public office or any public authority.”

By confining the LGBTI community to the stereotypical classification of male or female, we are in a way discriminating against them as we deny them a right of identity.
As such, we should not stereotype sex of gender. Rather let us appreciate that there are people of a different sexual orientation among us and accommodate them. Let us see our universities and colleges including “other”, or any accommodating word they may choose to use, on their application forms.

Let us see toilets in schools, government offices and public spaces being designated not just for male and female. Let us also see political party membership cards denoted in the three categories. Lastly, let us see the national ID accommodating those that do not identify as male or female.
In this way we will avoid the harassment and victimisation that the LGBTI community face due to lack of facilities designated to them. It is time for our society to try and understand the LGBTI community and live in harmony with them.

As it stands we still treat them on the streets and in our villages as if they are an alliance species, and the lack or legislation to protect them makes matters even worse.
I reverently hope that this article will reach the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sport and Recreation in its Department of Gender.

I hope the article will spur the Department of Gender to develop a policy that will benchmark other policies that will be developed by other ministries in the endeavour to mainstream gender with the purpose of being inclusive of the LGBTI community. I also hope the Ministry of Education and Training will take this up and ensure that the LGBTI learners are adequately accommodated in schools and they are not forced to be who they are not.

BY; Kelello Rakolobe

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