Homophobia on Social Media

By: Jamil Khan &  Melusi Simelane

Twitter is the meeting place of many minds, each looking for something different. Some come to educate and engage in debate from a genuinely constructive place, while others revel in spewing hate. For many minorities, Twitter threads can be a triggering place. No topic is off-limits.

 Heterosexual relationships, historically, were defined by unequal power relations endorsed by, among other institutions, religion. The rules are located in traditions of gender relations which permeate all spheres of society, including LGBTIQ+ relationships.

Conversations on the timeline about the LGBTIQ+ sparked by cis-heterosexual people under the guise of curiosity often move towards the: “I don’t have a problem with them, but I don’t accept their lifestyle” trope. These sentiments bring some issues to light; approval and agency. Approval – the idea that alternative sexualitiesneed to be approved by the dominant paradigm. This often infringes on the right of LGBTIQ+ people to practice their agency in expressing themselves. Agency – one of the most fundamental human liberties to dictate one’s own life choices. It deserves to be respected.

Many heterosexualpeople feel that as the barometer of what is morally acceptable the LGBTIQ+need cis-heterosexual approval over how they conduct their lives. LGBTIQ+ lives challenge the idea that cis-heterosexuality is the standard and the litmus test.That only they are the true purveyors of virtue and morality. Heteronormativity is shaped by gender hierarchies that sanction the use of authority in many ways that LGBTIQ+ lives defy. Although LGBTIQ+ relations remain tainted by heteronormativity, gender hierarchy is often disrupted in same-sex relations.

Homophobia has very little to do with LGBTIQ+ people and is much more about cis-heterosexual people and the need for control that binaries demand of their subscribers.Heterosexual relationships, historically, were defined by unequal power relations endorsed by, among other institutions, the church. Not much has changed in terms of ideology although some have challenged convention.

As the head of the household, the man traditionally holds a disproportionate amount of decision-making power in terms of distribution of material resources. Socially, this role also entitles him to a level of importance to which a woman, in the role of wife,must be in service. Men must love and cherish, while women must honour and obey. These configurations of power to which heterosexual relationships adhere, highlight the consistent presence of pre-set rules and roles. The rules are located in historical traditions of gender relations which permeate all spheres of society. When looking at the gender relations, and subsequently unequal power dynamics, one can see how the heterosexual mind finds it hard to imagine life outside of it.

2017, December 31. Jeffrey’s Bay. 

If we were to view the LGBTIQ+ community through heterosexual eyes, it becomes easy to see that homophobia, biphobia or transphobia may be a neurotic anxiety around the loss of control. The existence of an entire way of life that does not abide by the rules society has deemed to be common sense for centuries, invalidates entire belief systems that serve to further gender inequality. The unspoken rules that keep men and women in their “rightful” places are soothing to many. Soothing and familiar.

An important determinant of gender inequality is patriarchy. Writer bell hooks defines patriarchy as a: “Political-social system that insists that men are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence”.

Within this framework, gay men, as an example are not deemed real men. The social order created by gay men in society and within their partnerships upends heterosexualfamiliarity. It also proves that there is another way. That the structures that exist are being constantly maintained brings the normative into question andshifts the gaze inward. When looking at how much energy goes into controlling and maintaining gender relations, the idea of a “straight agenda” seems more plausible than that of the oft vilified “gay agenda”. In light of the above,the neurotic nature of phobias towards the LGBTIQ+ community is placed squarely in the heterosexual imagination.

One may ask, if women are the ones oppressed within and by the gender binary, why then doheterosexual women also display homophobia, biphobia and transphobia? Again,bell hooks gives us something to think about when she says that patriarchy has no gender. Patriarchal violence, is enacted to reinforce a dominator role in which an authority figure is considered ruler over those without power and given the right to rule with subjugation, submission and subordination. At the heart of patriarchy is the lust for power, which is a major motivator of women pledging allegiance to patriarchy and fulfilling its mandate.

According to hooks,we must illuminate the role women play in perpetuating and sustaining patriarchal culture and the lust for power in order to recognise patriarchy asa system that women and men support equally, despite that men receive more benefits from it. For this reason, power lies in maintaining gendered social relations and threats towards those relations are met with hostility in the form of queer-phobia. It would also seem that allegiance to patriarchy requires that any violence be directed towards the “weak”. If this seems difficult to fathom, we are reminded that patriarchy promotes insanity – a place where the most heinous of actions seem just.

To put things into perspective, Terrence Real says: “Psychological patriarchy is the dynamic between those qualities deemed “masculine” and “feminine” in which half of our human traits are exalted while the other half is devalued. Both men and women participate in this tortured value system.”

It must be stated very clearly that phobias towards the LGBTIQ+ community can be fatal, and so this article serves in no way to imply that it has nothing to do with them.What is does however hope to engage, is that idea that the fears that inspire such violence do not reside within the bodies of any LGBTIQ+ person. It is a response to a grave frustration of being locked into system that has dispossessed its subscribers of the ability to imagine something different. The gender binary keeps people in bondage and limits possibilities for creative expression. It traps people into a cycle of violence that slowly but surely destroys agency.

Homophobia is not about LGBTIQ+ people. It is about the anxiety that heterosexual people have regarding the control and ownership of each other, according to pre-set power dynamics. Sooner or later it will destroy all its disciples. There is another way, we just have to recognise it.

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Free Lesson for Princess Phumelele

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What has the world come to? On 31 October, 2018, I read with such gloom the news that a Tanzanian Governor has announced the creation of a surveillance squad, dedicated to ‘hunting down’ LGBTIQ+ persons. Mr Paul Makonda, believed to be the Governor Dar es Salaam, said round-ups would begin as early as next week. Reports say that the team will scrutinise social media in order to track down and arrest these constituents.

This is so very worrying for me, I should perhaps remove any cloud of suspicion and state right forth that I am Gay, making me a part of Governor Paul Makonda’s persons of interest in Dar es Salaam. Though this may seem so far off in terms of geography, it may seem some people in our very Kingdom condone such behaviour.

In the past several months, I have seen first-hand the rot that comes with impunity. From a former police PRO using his platform to spew hate speech, in the name of religion; to influential persons using the media to erupt fear and malice in the name of morality. Power corrupts, and impunity is the catalyst.

A little over twelve months ago I met a very enthusiastic and opinionated woman in the TV lobby of Parliament, in Lobamba. I was to learn, within 5 minutes of meeting her, she was a Senator. The honourable Senator was seated with several of us, who were not allowed inside the chambers because we were not wearing blazers, or was it jackets we were not wearing?

The senate was in session. A motion had been moved, thanks to hard work of lobbying and sensitization of the Health Portfolio committee. The motion was on the Ministry of Health’s role in serving LGBTQ+ patients. The senator had elected to stay out the debate as she felt very strongly against the notion of recognising LGBTIQ+ persons as full citizens in the country. She was saying all sorts of derogatory words and insults fervent enough to make anyone lose their cool, to the amusement of those who sat next to her. It was when she decided to storm into the chamber to let her voice be heard that I knew the motion would be thrown out.

Though it was thrown out, I found it to be a win for the LGBTIQ+ community. I can remember a police officer who was on duty, coming to sit next to me, asking me if I was a journalist, as I kept taking notes of the proceedings. She came over because she saw how sad I was, with every word being said in the chamber. What a lovely police officer she was, reminding me that Rome was not built in one day. Indeed, it was a win to have the Upper house of Parliament discuss our issues.

Fast track to early this year, the Sexual Offenses and Domestic Violence Act (which was a bill at the time) was being debated in Senate. I was to learn of the cringe worthy comments made by the very senator I had inconspicuously met twelve months some months before. The whole country went into a frenzy with civil society holding their breath, as the much awaited bill needed to be passed, whatever it took. She was cited by local print media saying that marital rape was not real. I am not sure if we should even be differentiating or categorising rape, but she purported that women are supposedly the sole ‘property’ of the husband, after marriage. This is only just a tip of the iceberg, she had worse to say, to the detriment of women emancipation.

One would think that was enough from the honourable senator. She has just made submissions to the King, suggesting that the United Nations poses a threat to the country. The newly appointed Prime Minister called upon parliamentarians to make submissions to the King on solutions to the ailing economy, and the honourable senator said she was ‘totally against laws which go against the teachings of the Bible.’ As quoted by the Times of Swaziland.

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The honourable Senator, Her Royal Highness, Princess Phumelele, responded to the question of alleviating the economy by saying the King must not allow ‘laws that legalise abortion and relationships between gays and lesbians.’

Human Rights

Princess Phumelele, though in the senate for the third (or second) time, has demonstrated the need to be educated on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, African Union Charter, and the Constitution of the Kingdom of 2005. Perhaps also all other commitments the country has in respect to basic Human and Peoples Rights.

We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the form of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations on Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups of people. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, for example, noted that it is the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems.

The utterances made by the senator, do not only constitute hate speech, or gross negligence to her duty as a legislator, but also breaches the principle of non-discrimination. The principle of non-discrimination is complemented by the principle of equality, as stated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Perhaps, as the honourable senator needs to study the Constitution of the Kingdom of Eswatini (2005), for guidance. She clearly fears the international bodies have no interest in her values. I would love to believe the constitution should bind us all together as Emaswati.

I will demonstrate below some extracts that ensure the protection of LGBTIQ+ persons in the Constitution;

“Section 14

(1)      All human rights and freedoms of the individual provided for under this section are guaranteed, to wit:-

(a)      Respect for life … equality before the law and equal protection of the law

(b)     

(c)     

(d)     

(e)      Protection from inhumane or degrading treatment…..

(f)       Respect for the right of the family…..

(2)      All the fundamental rights enshrined here shall be respected and upheld by the 3 Arms of the State and other organs or agencies of Government, and where applicable to them, by all natural and legal persons and shall be enforceable by the courts…”

The above extracts makes the honourable princess responsible for the protection of my rights and dignity as a gay man, and many other LGBTIQ+ citizens of the kingdom, she sits in one of the three arms of government. In case the honourable senator needs reminding that no matter my sexual identity, I am still deserving of the very basic fundamental human rights, here is another extract form the constitution.

“Section 20

(1)      All persons are equal before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect and shall enjoy every equal protection of the law

For the avoidance of doubt, a person shall not be discriminated against on the grounds of gender, race colour, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, or social or economic standing, political opinion, age or disability.”

I am not a legal scholar, but I find these words to be straight forward. As a law abiding citizen of the Kingdom of Eswatini, I should find it peculiar for Princess Phumelele not to grasp the need for respect of all persons by the three arms of government, and where applicable by all other ‘natural and legal persons.’

The honourable senator cannot have been more wrong in attacking the United Nations, as though the country has been asked to do more than it has committed to. As I have stated earlier, the country has committed to several treaties. All which safeguard the promotion of and protection of basic human rights. Here is a list of a few, for veracity.

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
  • International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights (1976)
  • African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights (1986)

Being signatory to these treaties and actually ratifying them, means the country is bound to ensure they are actually implemented.

There has been so many things that have been said in the past couple of months, and it is quite saddening to see the return of such backwardness and unchecked disrespect for what is in black and white in the constitution. The people’s parliament, Sibaya, set clear the path that we should all take towards a brighter posterity. Towards a striving economy that will see Eswatini move from fantasizing of Vision 2022, but actually breathing the realities of Vision 2022.

One has to wonder how we will ever see this vision come to be, if the people want to see the country prosper, and Princess Phumelele is in every corner trying to see us regress. It is unfortunate that we do not seem to unite in the revival of the economy, which should be inclusive and progressive.

What the honourable senator was saying to the nation was, she will be spending the next five years trying to sabotage the progress the country has made in realising and promoting Basic Human Rights? This begs a very big question.

Indeed LGBTIQ+ rights are human rights, and the dissection of the populace by either sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression, is not going to benefit anyone. It should be incumbent on the honourable senator to be a champion for the respect of the human, if the economy is to survive. The question is who will keep the government in check, if the honourable senator does not even grasp one single principle, that of the respect for human rights?

I put it on the honourable senator to study the Constitution and perhaps assist me in my undertaking to have the country decriminalise same sex relations. The common law offence of sodomy is unconstitutional and I can explain how, if she would let me have tea with her.

Laws that criminalize same-sex relations give rise to a number of separate but interrelated violations. Such laws violate an individual’s right to be free from discrimination, which is enshrined in article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and core international human rights treaties, as well as the rights to be protected against unreasonable interference with privacy and arbitrary detention, protected by articles 12 and 9 of the Universal Declaration and articles 17 and 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Furthermore, Section 20, as demonstrated above, gives protection from discrimination, which the common law offence of sodomy violates in its application.

I have made repeated reference to the human and human rights, a concept not foreign to our society. In fact, on this continent we pride ourselves on being people who believe in the value of human life and interdependence. We have seen, throughout history how humanity has prevailed and failed in some of the most joyous and painful ways. As a global community, we have enacted and averted some of the most heinous displays of evil towards our fellow human beings.

For all this history, we have stood on stages and at tables exclaiming to never again repeat these crimes. We have committed to treaties and constitutions alike, to protect human life from ourselves, may I add. If today, we stand before all of this history and the Honourable Senator who may with the flick of her wrist immerse herself in every document claiming protection for human life still urges us to turn our back on some citizens, the question I must beg is: Who do we really consider human?

This is Melusi Simelane. Quote me.

SWAGAA IS DEAD!

To the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, straight, open-minded and allies of the LGBTIQ movement, and basically all people of eSwatini.

Here is a free hug, that you deserve. SWAGAA is dead, and the leadership is enjoying the gravy train at the expense of the marginalised people of eSwatini.

Two weeks ago, the Kingdom of eSwatini was abuzz with excitement and trepidation for the first ever LGBTIQ Pride parade which was hosted on 30 June. The journey towards realising such a momentous event in a society that rejects difference was well documented, and few people could claim ignorance to the work that had been invested into it. Although, we anticipated that there would be resistance, nobody could have predicted that it would come from supposed allies of the LGBTIQ struggle.
On the 26th of June, the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) put out a statement directly denouncing their support for Pride as well as the work done by Rock of Hope to realise this. They did this, citing violation of religious beliefs that evidently condemn LGBTIQ identities. Most of us will know that Pride events around the world are demonstrations against the persecution and human rights abuses perpetrated against the LGBTIQ community. I am sure that SWAGAA also knows this.

In a modern world which sees the gains made by bloody battles for equality under threat of reversal, the recklessness and harmfulness of such a statement seems obvious. Furthermore, how an organisation that operates on the premise of countering abuse and offering support to victims of abuse can choose to be represented by ideologically harmful and dishonestly interpreted religious beliefs defies all logic. To stay on the topic of Christianity and homosexuality for a moment, it is a well known fact that that the Bible scriptures that are used to justify homophobia and the dehumanisation of the LGBTIQ community are willfully misinterpreted for the purposes of pernicious religious fanaticism. Using such reasoning to denounce an event aimed at affirming the human rights of citizens of eSwatini who are meant to be equal before the law, is quite frankly shameful and intellectually deficient. Sadly, this is not the first time that mouthpieces of SWAGAA have publicly defied the values they claim to protect, in favour of appeasing power and traditionalism.
A directionless, unspecific apology offered to the people of eSwatini for what “may have caused pain and confusion among the public” is nothing short of an insult. The media statement was well positioned
to aim its venom at the LGBTIQ community as well as Rock of Hope, who until now have not been apologised to. Not a single acknowledgement has been made for the harm that such a vindictive statement has caused the movement and the Pride event that so many looked forward to as a beacon of hope for change in our society.

What that event meant to the LGBTIQ community can never be quantified and for some, the underlying threat communicated in the statement by SWAGAA has confirmed the bigotry that resides even in those entities that claim to support us. SWAGAA, your longevity so proudly noted in your apology is in no way a measure of your relevance or impact. It is, in fact, a testament to the insidious nature of traditionalism and bigotry that disguises itself as progress – again a dishonest undertaking.

For a young non-heterosexual male, who was raised with the respectful and humane family values that sees humanity and kindness, over religious fanaticism, what is the first thing that should come to mind,
when an action group as old as time allows a PR statement, short of an insult to pass as an apology – an apology that was never solicited?

What SWAGAA did with the 26 June statement, was officially close their office for the young pupil who is struggling with their gender identity and expression and as a result suffers bullying at school and unwarranted abuse from their homophobic parent.

If SWAGAA is brave enough to spew bigotry, in contradiction to the values they purport to uphold, on public platforms, they should employ the same bravery in addressing the people they directed their venom at when offering an apology. Until such time, no apology has been heard by the ‘people of Eswatini’.

It pains us to see SWAGAA die a painful death, while the ‘people of eSwatini’ watch helpless.

Someone please fire the executive, or disband the whole organisation, and start from scratch!

Onwards from #eSwatiniPride

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© Mathias Wasik / mathiaswasik.com

The fight for liberation from oppression dates back as far as the inception of modernity. Where there has been oppression, there has always been resistance. Despite the ways in which historical accounts of society may have been manipulated to portray inequality as a product of natural selection, there is always one more story to surface that disproves such a harmful fallacy.

Today, oppression bear great resemblances to its origin but the conversation has been complexified greatly by the intersections of the different oppression and privileges that can reside in one body. We are both marginalised and privileged in multiple ways at the same time. A recognition of this complexity has often been met with resistance by those who believe that struggles should be waged along a single axis in the name of unity.

June 30, 2018 will forever remain a bittersweet day for me, and the entire LGBTI movement in the Kingdom of Eswatini. It must be marked on the LGBTI Calendar as the day we faced the oppressor in the face and said, Love Wins. It has been 49 years since the first stone was thrown at police in New York, Manhattan at the Stonewall Inn riots. That stone set in motion a wave of public resistance to the discrimination faced by LGBTI people globally and today, that wave is still in motion.

Our existence, as the LGBTI community has already been paid for and yet the journey has not come to an end. Today, we stand at home and our constitution dictates that we have the right to:

  1. protection of privacy of the home
  2. protection from inhuman or degrading treatment
  3. equality before the law and equal protection of the law.

These are not just words in black and white, these are seriously well thought declarations that His Majesty consented in 2005, when he signed into an Act, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland). His guidance and leadership has indeed allowed us to use the very legislation that is permitted in the constitution to host the inaugural pride celebration.

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© Mathias Wasik / mathiaswasik.com

The work cannot bear fruits if we are not all committed to the project of social justice for everyone. The work, of attaining equality for all, depends on the commitment of each and every one of us because we rely on humanity to carry us through. Yet we have all showcased in our numbers, that we shall not allow injustice to prevail. I am counting on the humanity of everyone who attended, and those that followed through social media and mainstream media, to see this work through, for when we look at each other, regardless of the multiple social positions we occupy, we should see ourselves.

Many have asked, why should there be a special event for LGBTI people to display pride in who they are when everyone else doesn’t. The riots of 1969 did not start out of a need to boast, it started out of a demand to live free from persecution and harassment for being who we are. Instead of wondering why everyone doesn’t march for this reason, it should make us think why, in 2018, are we still asking to be treated fairly and equally as valid members of society. The work remains to be done.

The goal of this event was to create opportunities for people from all walks of life to publicly connect with new and old allies. We wanted to celebrate our lives in Eswatini and our accomplishments as a community and country. We also intended to educate the public about our culture, our place in society, and our issues of concern. Through the success of this event, we were able to demonstrate our diversity, our numbers, and the spirit of pride we feel within ourselves and our community and country.

We can thank you all, individually. We can even write your names in the skies above, and ensure the whole world knows what an amazing job you have done. We want to do that.

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© Mathias Wasik / mathiaswasik.com

However, I want to rather congratulate you all. What you have done to make this event a success is incredibly amazing. History shall indeed absolve you from all the naysayers. I know history has recorded your great deeds. The list is endless. Each and everyone of you who contributed to this event. The size of your contribution.

We Love You. I Love You.

Way-forward

Security for marginalised people is often thought of, in terms of protection from violence. Resources invested in protection are prone to exhaustion, without addressing the source of violence and what defines violence. It is the very exclusion of marginalised people from structures that define, develop, innovate, formulate, comprises and perpetuates violence. Inclusion of true diversity in decision-making structures on all levels of society, presents the first opportunity for making a safer and secure future.

The LGBTI community continues to live under harsh conditions in the Kingdom of Eswatini, and the success of the inaugural Pride Celebrations should not deem the light on the fight for social inclusion and the need fro legal reform. With the Common Law Offence of Sodomy, we live under state-sanctioned fear. This translates in the everyday existence, augmented when trying to again basic services from government agencies, be it the clinics/hospitals, police or even the home affairs offices.

There is the societal stigma and discrimination that can too often translate into physical violenceNotwithstanding the emotional and sometimes psychological violence, that translates to mental illnesses. Because of blistering utterances made by senior and influential figures, Eswatini continues to be an unfriendly and threatening place for LGBTI persons. The criminalisation of same-sex relationships violates the privacy and further disregards the dignity of the humanIt is degrading in an incomprehensible way, as it suggests we are simply a sexual act rather than a whole person who contributes to society in numerous meaningful ways.

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© Mathias Wasik / mathiaswasik.com

The time is now, for the Kingdom of Eswatini to take a stand and treat every citizen with dignity and respect, removing outdated laws and replacing them with laws that nurtures and encourage everyone in society irrespective of their sexuality. We need legal reform; safety, security and well-being; access to services; access to justice, and meaningful socio-economic participation.

The issue of a secure and prosperous future for the Kingdom of Eswatini cannot be divorced from the issue of justice, justice for victims of violence. More than that, understanding that the experience of marginalisation changes as the differences that one person embodies constellate to leave them vulnerable to oppression in ways that others might not experience.

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© Mathias Wasik / mathiaswasik.com

It may as well be immature of me to make this declaration today, nonetheless, I stand solemnly calling for the Kingdom of Eswatini to repeal all laws that criminalise consensual same sex relations between adults and introduce strong anti-discrimination legislation that protects all citizens and enables them to give their best to society for the good of all citizens.

A fight for equality must ensure true equality for all so that no one gets left behind. Let us indeed turn hate/fear into LOVE

#eSwatiniPride #LoveWins

PS: My Boyfriend has an MA, and maybe we should get married now.. how about Marriage Equality? Congratulations My Love!

 

No One Promotes Homosexuality!

 

 

ROH LOGO

Founded in January 2011 and formally registered in 2012, the Rock of Hope works National in Swaziland covering all four regions of the country. The main area of focus is on health advocacy ensuring that the LGBT community has access to health care, eliminating all non-financial barriers to access to health care for the LGBTI. The organization is also focused on creating safe social spaces in the broader community through religious advocacy and community engagement. The main aim being to ensure that the LGBTI community gains acceptance within the communities in which they reside. Furthermore, the organization also focuses on legal advocacy, ensuring that the LGBTI community has access to protection, this involves advocating with lawyers and police, the main aim being to eliminate all barriers to protection by the state.

Allow me to explain ‘The Unhealthy LGBTI Lifestyle’ and our mandate and objectives as an organisation. In addition, to further fend off the idea by the religious fanatics, CITIZENGO, a Kenyan Organisation, that we are a pretentious organisation.

Should we deal first with the fact that the ‘unhealthy’ lifestyle is an intricate one, yet not necessarily motivated by Human Sexual Orientation? Due respect, an unhealthy lifestyle should not be tangled with Homosexuality, lest we start attributing, any personal behavioural necessities with a certain sex, gender, race, or even sexual orientation. That would start to look rather stereotypical and prejudice at worst.

Perhaps the problem here emanates from the fact that certain structures in our society and across the African continent are of the inclination that Sexuality is Lethargic. Sexuality is very fluid and can never be fully understood until one fully does a self-introspection. I am living proof. I find solace in the fact that I am gay and happy to oblige to the authorities, for one cannot be an island, I am still, governed by the Swazi Government. This is why our mandate and scope starts and ends within the bounds of the Kingdom.

Any entity operating outside the country cannot have a clear idea of what it means to be Swazi, and mostly what it means to be a Swazi LGBT person. This is why we find it to be very problematic having to defend our integrity to a foreign group operating under the disguise of ‘Parents of Swaziland’.

Perhaps a more sincere conversation with the respect it deserves should supervene. Only when people with faces raise genuine concerns.

Of course, we wish for people to be educated on the reality of Sexual Orientation and Diversity, plus the Continuum of Gender Identity and Expression. However, that has nothing to do with the promotion of anything, but education and information.

To call The Rock of Hope a Pro-Homosexual organisation is an illusion that should not spread its ill-informed ideology in this, our beloved Kingdom of eSwatini. My organisation has a mission “to build a society in Swaziland that is free from the stigmatization, discrimination and the oppression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people this also include prisoners and sex workers who fall under the listed categories. The organization through its activities aim to create a very strong and proud society of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the entire kingdom of Swaziland.” There is no mention of being pro-homosexual. Nor is there any mention of recruiting of anyone. At the very least, we are not even a membership organisation. We work as a proxy for all the listed marginalised groups.

The reason for this is simple. We have no interest whatsoever in ‘promoting’ homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, pansexuality, and/or any other form of sexual orientation there is. Our mandate is clear,

  • Conducive Policy Environment
  • Friendly Service Provision
  • Safe Sex practice among Marginalized (LGBTI, inclusive) Groups
  • Psychosocial Support and Counselling
  • Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights
  • Evidence Building and Research

The issue of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is clear and straightforward. No one has ever deviated from this, and yet we are expected to be ‘acted upon by the police’, if CITIZENGO is to have it their way. The conversation has always been about Equality for ALL. Human Rights for ALL. Protections for ALL. No one wants gay rights. We are not gay. We are human. Our sexuality is only just one aspect of our lives.

The bottom line is, life itself is an experiment and one can never become their full potential unless they are left to figure out who they are on their own. We would never influence, promote, or even suggest how anyone should live his or her lives.

I want to make a correction to the notion that The Rock of hope is a pro-homosexual organisations. The reality is we are interested in the welfare and realisation of basic human rights, for all. Not to promote, favour or support any Sexual Orientation. In fact, if we were to promote anything, it would have to be Choice. Thus making us a Pro-Choice movement.

The other one is that homosexuality is a lifestyle and an unhealthy one for that matter. The truth is people do what they do based on their personal experiences and circumstances. Not who they are or what they are.

We have reports with both the ministry of health, and other social partners, on the work we have done in the health advocacy. Our records speak for themselves. Our website has all our reports.

WWW.THEROCKOFHOPESD.COM

 

Open Letter to the Prime Minister

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Just the other day your new book was a topic of discussion amongst some friends of mine, who I might add were worried about an availability of a PDF copy. Well, I had not heard you wrote and published one, so I asked: ‘What is the PM speaking about in his book? Could it be his privileges? Perhaps his iron-fist governing style? Or even his non-commitment to the human development of the  citizenry?’ See, I understand that you have not a single care for the education of the youth in this country, Prime Minister.

 

It pains me to say that in the year 2016, I stood as I applauded a speech you made when the UNISWA foundation launched the UNISWA ALUMNI, in respect to the government funding formula for education, especially at higher level (where it matters most). I could not have known that you were doing what politicians do, misleading the populace, for a quick applause.

Prime minister, as I am writing this letter locked in my room with a fear the university registrar might decide to evacuate these premises, closing the university indefinitely. This would usually take about two weeks. Two weeks that we cannot reclaim. Two weeks that will cost us our education. No, two weeks that will cost us the whole degree. Sir, this is not a joke, this morning I read in the newspaper that Southern African Nazarene University students were having a deadlock with the Labour PS. Mr Mkhaliphi. Last weekend a friend was telling me William Pitcher closed, indefinitely. If I am to bring up the issues of Swaziland Christian University, then I might as well write you a book, Prime Minister. Why would all these universities resolve to closing down indefinitely, costing us our academic calendar?

I must ask you why your government is so unperturbed by the unrest in what is globally considered one of the most important sectors of society – education. It is utterly cruel to set people up for the belief that an education is the key to their prosperity and then literally play games with their access to that education. These are lives we are talking about, Prime Minister. For most of us, a university education is what our lives depends on if we are to see a life that is even marginally better than this. You are literally delaying the dreams and lives of so many citizens, and as we have seen, some of us are not willing to wait. Students have taken their lives due the debilitating depression the volatile higher education environment in Swaziland brings. I would like to know if, in a system so corrupt, an education is anything more than window dressing that will get me no further than a good word or prominent surname will. A dream delayed too long, becomes a dream deferred.

The question is simple and straightforward for all these institutions of higher learning, and yet the answers are always different when you speak to different people. Mr Prime Minister Sir, shall we be frank for a bit and call out the government you head, for their inefficiency and utter disregard for the future of the Swazi Child.

I remember a time when students would start first semester, already done with the scholarship process, all the way to even receiving their allowances. I remember a time when there was never an issue of delayed release of students living allowances, because the government knew that students depended on these allowances for day-to-day living. I remember a time when the government would be swift in ensuring that students had all they needed to have a smooth academic year. Well, I could be wrong about all this. This could all be in my head. Alas, I hope for a time where students will be at the university for one thing, and one thing only. To learn, study and graduate. As we stand, the life at the University of Swaziland, has become a waiting game. We are always waiting for the enthusiastic enough – with a justifiable cause nonetheless – to take up arms demanding what the contract signed between the government (as a sponsor) and the student dictates and then subsequently the university –justifiable indeed – closing the university down, in a ploy to protect the property.

One has had enough time at this university to see the real issue. Last semester I wrote an open letter to the registrar complaining about the closing down of the university as it affects all students, even those who have no quarrel with the government as a sponsor. Moreover, their response to me signalled that they would continue to protect the integrity of the university, or what is left of it, and I will get to that in a minute. See, we cannot continue blaming the University for shutting us out when they are not the root of the problem.

Prime minister, do you realise that all this appears to be a symptom of a dysfunctional department in your government? It cannot be that you, as head of His Majesty’s government, continue to turn a blind eye to a dysfunctional department that is not only failing the students, but is failing the future of this Kingdom, a pulpit for Africa. You continue to lead a government that is systematically crippling the literacy of the kingdom. I cannot go to bed today, without expressing my heartfelt disappointment in you. Shame on you for allowing this to happen under your watch. Shame on you, for not appearing to care about what is happening in this country, in relation to the endless class boycotts, which lead to strikes that end up forcing the closure of universities. I mean, perhaps an inquiry into the root of the problem. It may be bigger that I see it. Yet I can clearly see, as any sane and patriotic Swazi can, it is crippling the education system and as thus, ascertaining doubt into the authenticity of the qualifications these universities produce. More than that, these universities mirror the style of national governance in that, when citizens are unhappy with the way their lives are played with; their protests are met with punishment in the form of deprivation. Any dissent is intolerable in this country and it is dealt with as one would a petulant child. Youth and adults cannot  and should not be subjected to this treatment.

As I promised to bring to book the integrity of these institutions of higher learning, it is saddening that the corporate world has to, not only train their newly graduated employees but also, teach them how to do their jobs. Tell me this, Prime Minister, what good is a degree that one had to prepare for an exam to acquire? I wonder if these degrees should not be about learning something and then an examined to test our understanding. Well, tell me when you think these students get to learn if they are always having class boycotts, and/or striking. If not at all home, as the university will possibly close down if there is not any learning progress. I would too, why would you keep these youth in the facility when they are not doing what they came for? In addition, the issue is not whether the students are justified or not to do these things, the question is whether the reasons they are doing it are fixable or not, under a patriotic government that cares for the education of its youths.

Prime Minister, the way in which power constellates to trap us in an impossible matrix of confusion is killing us. You find yourself at the very top of the power matrix, looking down upon the chaos your privilege protects you from. There are some of us who dare to dream so far and wide for the prospect of a better life placed firmly within the responsibility of our own hands. Our hands can only hold so much, for with the impunity and disregard for dignity you are displaying, I find myself feeling that I am at a dead end. Not only are we being held back from acquiring an education, but also we are being held back from making better lives. What, in this system, is any one life worth if not even entitled to self-determination?

I fear that if unaddressed, this problem will only grow more odious symptoms which will become the topic of countless conferences and symposiums which profit from posturing about our pain. We are headed for, if we have not already arrived, an economy that thrives on hopelessness and human resignation. I cannot imagine a more inhumane reality visited upon the future of Swaziland.

Prime Minister; shall this be your legacy?

Yours,

A distraught Student at UNISWA, and a Disappointed Citizen

5 Things To Do this Festive Season


Perhaps one of my least favourite seasons. I hate not knowing what to do when I wake up in the morning.

Perhaps it speaks to not having a mother and a father to be grateful to, for bringing me to this world.

Perhaps the siblings I have no idea where they might be this very moment, or what they might be thinking of me. Being openly and unapologetically gay and everything.

Who am I kidding, I am looking forward to seeing my grandmother.

So, you probably wondering what to do this festive season. I have come up with 5 things I will be doing after this hectic year… I hope it helps you… 

  1.  Spend time with those who love and care for you. You’ve spent the whole year round with a different type of people. Now is the time to decide you will be with people who adore you. Be sure these are people you care for in return..
  2. Rest, have enough rest. Do things that make you happy. Do things that make you laugh. Be as relaxed and comfortable as you possibly can. Do not stress about anything, but what to do that makes you a happy person. You need this retreat (or should we call it reset) for the new year to come.
  3. Read more about current affairs. You have probably been focusing on your work related material. It’s time to catch up with the world. You probably have been listening and reading headlines, as you never had time for reading and actually paying attenton, Work schedule. Now is the time to catch up with the world and have analysis-conversations with your loved ones. Come up with ideas on what to do in the coming year to contribute to making whatever situation you’ve read about better. Remember it all starts with you.  Do better.
  4. Give to those who are less privileged. There is nothing that is more kind than giving. Give your time, give your attention. Give your money. Give anything that you can afford to give. It’s a season to be jolly, ensure that those you can reach out to, are jolly as well. Give, give, give.
  5. Meditate, pray, reconnect with the universe. Whatever belief system you may have. This is the time to reflect and speak to the deity. There is a reason you live. Take the time to reflect on what you have achieved and what you have lost. You’ll need All the strength and wisdom you can get in the coming year. While you at it. Forgive yourself. 

Happy Festive Season, with Love From

Melusi Simelane

XXX