Queerphobia in South Africa

These Pride celebrations are worth travelling to. Picture by Axel Schmidt/Reuters

South Africa, the Great Rainbow Nation – wherein we all allegedly love each other and get along, except if you identify as queer – suddenly that kind of rainbow becomes weaponised against us.

South Africa arguably has one of the best Constitution’s worldwide – being one of the first 5 countries in the world to have legalised queer marriage. A country where hate speech towards queer people is considered a crime, somehow – on Heritage Day of all days, South Africans manage to show their ignorance proudly.

One such, Azraa Shaik – an unknown, apparent ‘beauty influencer’ took to Twitter to display her ignorance in several tweets about her disgust and disdain of the LGBTQ+ community, going as far as telling someone who rightfully called her out that “but still you guys go off. shoving your queerness in everyone’s face”.

The fundamental issues surrounding this kind of hate speech is that the repercussions are often not nearly as severe as they should be, like Vicki Momberg and others – Shaik’s words deserve to be met with the full weight of the law, she should be jailed for her hate speech. It is astounding that the likes of Shaik – would be up in arms if the same statements were made regarding their race or religion, yet they believe that they can say whatever they want without any sort of consequences therefore.

Furthermore, the bigoted Shaik justifies her ignorance as her ‘opinion’ – which is a played out and ridiculous argument. People’s lives and identities are not for you to dissect, approve of, devalue or have an opinion of.

As a country, with monstrous cases of gender-based violence – we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that these kinds of inflammatory statements perpetuate violence and adds to the inferno that we already find ourselves in. It further endangers the lives of queer people who are targeted often even more than cis women because of the intersections they find themselves in.

In 2019, with all the access we have at our fingertips – ignorance is truly unforgivable – especially for adults. Expecting marginalised communities to continuously do free labour to call you out and keep you from behaving poorly is inexcusable.

If we have any hope of creating a country like the one of Constitution describes, one wherein the rights of people are respected and everyone – yes, even those queers who are ‘shoving’ it in your face – are respected as well as protected. We cannot be marginalised people who disrespect, devalue, degrade and take away people’s human rights because we feel like it. We need to hold people accountable, we need to call people out and there should be consequences for hate speech and violence towards those different to you.

This, like with Penny Sparrow and Adam Catzevelos should serve as another reminder not to be a hateful, violent, rotten human – and not to record your filth. The internet is forever –  even when you backpedal, delete tweets or block people.

Nadine Dirks is a communications and advocacy associate, and an intersectional feminist. She is also a social justice, and sexual reproductive health and rights advocate – with a focus on Black Consciousness.