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Welcoming Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitultional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, At a National Workshop to Review the National Intervention Strategy for the LGBTIQ+ Sector in South Africa, Kempton Park, 2 December 2020

Programme Director, Dr Vilakazi,
The Co-Chair of the National Task Team, Ms Letsike,
Representatives from civil society,
Representatives from various government departments and institutions,
Guests and friends,

I want to extend a warm welcome to each and every one here today.

This is one of the first face-to-face workshops that our Department is hosting since the end of the hard lockdown.

And what a year it has been – if one thinks back to December last year, if anyone had told us what was lying in waiting for us and how much our worlds would change, I don’t think any of us would have believed it.

Covid-19 has affected all our lives. And it has also had a profound effect on the attainment of the rights of LGBTIQ+ people around the world.

The second UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity – whose initial three-year term started in January 2018 - recently released a report on the impact of Covid-19 on the human rights of LGBTIQ+ persons.

The report makes some concerning observations:

The report stresses that countries must continue, or put in place, three fundamental processes:

It is extremely important to highlight that these processes are all things which we are already doing in South Africa and that we must continue to build upon.

In particular, this dialogue is vital for purposes of the third process, as it will help us to adopt evidence-based approaches, in partnership with civil society, when we design and formulate our responses.

The issues raised by the Independent Expert are also realities that we need to take into consideration as we move forward with the review of the National Intervention Strategy.

The NIS is a vibrant and dynamic strategy – it is not cast in stone and must adapt to meet changing demands.

In less than a decade, we have made significant progress in terms of the promotion and protection of human rights of LGBTI persons.

In 2011, the then Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Minister Jeff Radebe, established the National Task Team (NTT) to develop a National Intervention Strategy to address violence perpetrated against black lesbians in the townships.

This was after the Minister received a number of petitions from both local and international civil society organisations requesting his intervention. The National Task Team was to be the vehicle to combat and prevent violence against LGBTI persons.

The NTT was re-established in May 2013 by our Department, together with representatives from Chapter 9 institutions and civil society organisations.

The NTT developed the National Intervention Strategy to respond to and prevent, gender and sexual orientation-based violent crimes perpetrated against LGBTI persons and to develop an Inter-sectoral Implementation Plan which would link parallel and complementary initiatives.

The NTT has been an extremely successful partnership between government and civil society, as the NTT undertook to strengthen government’s ability to respond to LGBTI needs and to strengthen the capacity of civil society to deliver related services. 

The composition of the NTT has, since 2013, been extended to include more departments, civil society bodies and stakeholders. Provincial Task Teams (PTTs) were also established in the 9 provinces.

The Rapid Response Team was established in 2013 with the purpose to urgently attend to pending and reported cases of hate crimes perpetrated against LGBTI persons and pending cases are received from civil society organisations for fast tracking.

So why are we reviewing the NIS?

The NIS provides the framework that informs the functioning of the NTT. It emphasizes the need to create awareness of LGBTIQ+ rights and to create a society which recognises the needs and challenges experienced by LGBTI+ people, and works together to resolve them.

For example, we all know that our laws are extremely progressive when it comes to the promotion and protection of LGBTIQ+ rights, but how do we change societal attitudes on the ground, in our communities, where discrimination and prejudice still take place on a daily basis. And how do we assist in strengthening civil society structures on the ground?

The NIS was written with input from government and civil society and must be periodically reviewed and updated.  

The LGBTIQ+ community, through the NTT, has requested this workshop to review the NIS so as to ensure that the activities in the NIS will continue to meet the needs of LGBTIQ+ people.

This dialogue provides the ideal opportunity for us to hear directly from the sector – what is government doing well, what is working and what is not working and how can we work together to improve.

While the NTT was initially created to respond to violence against LGBTI people, the creation of the Gender-based Violence and Femicide National Strategic Plan to end Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in South Africa (the GBVF NSP), requires that the NTT reconsider its NIS and ask whether there is still a need for a NTT.

I raise this question because the GBV Strategic Plan also includes dealing with violence against LGBTIQ+ people.  We cannot have two government and civil society structures both dealing with the same issue.  

Should the mandate of the NTT then not change to be less about violence only, but rather to deal more broadly with the rights of LGBTI people and act as the main interface between government and civil society on these issues?

For example, a lot of work needs to be done on addressing legislative reform regarding issues facing intersex and transgender people.  The European Union funded a study trip of government and civil society to Malta and Brussels to look, in particular, at what was being done for transgender people.  The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and myself participated in this study trip and further work needs to be done back home to take these issues forward.

From Government’s side the NTT started off as being led by and composed of departmental officials rather than political heads.  It was meant to be co-chaired by the Director General of Justice and Constitutional Development.  Should it not be elevated, from the side of Government, to be led by members of the executive?

As you know, we are in a period of financial constraint within Departmental budgets, so it is also extremely important that we identify the resources needed to enable the successful implementation of the NIS within communities in the various provinces.
I want to wish everyone a very successful and productive dialogue.
We must do more to create a society where every person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can fully exercise their human rights – and this dialogue will help us do that.

I thank you.