A PanAfricanist Queer Womanist Collective
By Caili Forrest
During SA election week 2014 (only the fifth time that the country is getting in line to vote), there is no better way to celebrate than by taking a dip into the political party-scape.
Figuring out who’s feeling ‘pretty, and witty, and gay’ ahead of the national elections is both an interesting and important journey for all of us queer South Africans. Despite the powerful political history of the LGBT movement during the struggle and in our early democratic years, things have quietened down a bit. And why shouldn’t they? We are one of a handful of countries which explicitly include sexual orientation in our Constitution, we have legalised same sex marriage, and gay couples can adopt. These are great victories for our community and I am so happy and proud to be a gay South African, but our journey is not over yet. The reasons we cannot be quiet are many – the plight of our African brothers and sisters (Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and many more), the waves of corrective rape and other hate crimes, bullying at schools, inadequate sexual healthcare to LGBT persons, discrimination in the workplace, and more. So, gender and sexuality may not be on the top of your list when deciding who to vote for – education, health, the economy, and transformation may be the issues that are more of a priority given the massive challenges faced by our beautiful country. You may also be seriously considering abstaining or spoiling your ballot, which has been the call by some groups over the last few weeks owing to disillusionment with the quagmire that is SA politics. Whatever your current political persuasion, as LGBT citizens of this country we owe it to ourselves to be aware of who will most likely promote our rights and wellbeing as a minority group, and who is least likely to do so.
With all that said, let us kick off with this ‘Happy Gay Bar(ometer)’. At this point please note the disclaimers:
In order to limit this little article, and avoid my political rambling (which my girlfriend informs me gets really annoying), we have decided to pick out the significant parties in the last election and some of the new comers making waves through their mergers, marriages, and style choices. We took this lovely bunch, did Google searches (like any good researcher should – yay Google), and scored them based on whether:
Based on this, here is a list of who you are unlikely to see at a gay bar or waving a rainbow flag, who is lukewarm on the subject, and who is ‘tickled pink’.
Overall, some of the barometer results are what could be expected, while others are (un)pleasantly surprising. The lowest score was from the ‘Collective for Democracy’ containing our highly conservative and/or religious leaders. The DA, with its liberal view and openly LGBT leaders, takes the highest score but remains in the ‘Fair’ range. None of the parties are ranked in the ‘High’ range.
Lowest Scores – Reds
The rainbow is full of many colours and we love them all, but in this case the parties who came out in the red are not looking good. These parties are either completely anti-LGBT and fought against progressive legislation, like same sex marriage; or they have homophobes in leadership positions; or lastly they have schizophrenic responses – sometimes love and sometimes hate.
Collective for Democracy. Score: -2/20
This contains a real mix of political parties – many of whom are conservative in their views. It is no surprise then that on the gender and sexuality question the Collective says nothing – it is one of the issues where finding consensus in this grouping will be virtually impossible. Some of the members have been vehemently against LGBT rights, such as gay marriage. Very soon after announcing ‘the collective’, there were tensions with the IFP and currently it is unclear how strongly connected this collective really is.
It must be noted that the NFP does not seem to have a strong online presence at present so it is difficult to determine their views in this investigation. Unfortunately, their view on LGBT rights and issues appear to be similar – silent.
ANC. Score: 5/20
Despite the ANC’s Simon Nkoli and other incredible LGBT activists which had strong ties to the struggle for liberation and the ruling party, there is often a ‘schizophrenic’ approach to LGBT concerns – both from a policy and personal perspective. Embodying this are the 2006 defamatory remarks by Jacob Zuma, to which he later apologised. 6 years later Zuma was found criticizing the Zulu King for discrimination against homosexuality. Is this the case of a real change in heart? The reaction to the Traditional Courts Bill is another point in question. Add to this the lack of direct engagement in the party’s manifesto and no openly gay leaders, and you get a low score for the ruling party. Despite this, it must be noted that it is during ANC rule that the gay rights successes, such as gay marriage and adoption, have progressed.
The UDM straddles the line between our fair and lowest scores. They have spoken in favour of gay rights as based on the Constitution but this has not found its way into their policies. They have also not been vocal around critical issues such as anti-gay laws recently passed.
Fair range – Oranges
Here are our ‘middle of the road’ drivers. They either haven’t quite decided how they feel, or have chosen to ignore the issue, or have not yet written it into policy for a variety of reasons.
AgangSA. Score: 8/20
Leaving mergers and marriages of a different kind aside for a moment, one of our newest political parties appears to be pro-gay rights. This is seen in work by the members as well as repeated support from Dr Ramphele. However, gender and sexuality issues have not been directly addressed in any of the policy frameworks as yet.
EFF. Score: 9/20
The EFF has gender and sexuality as one of its ‘complementary pillars’ in the party’s manifesto. They have also spoken out against anti-gay behaviour on the continent. It remains to be seen whether this is simply part of ‘electioneering rhetoric’ or they will institute real change. Given Malema’s controversial comment during Zuma’s rape trial, some suspicion is warranted.
DA. Score: 13/20
Although they do not have an official policy on LGBT concerns, the DA have been actively involved in promoting gay rights in South Africa and abroad. They are also one of the only parties which have openly LGBT South Africans in their top leadership positions.
Highest Scores – Greens
Based on these criteria, here are the parties that come out on top. They are superstars at the ‘Happy Gay Bar(ometer)’! They support and promote LGBT rights in policy and practice, and are most likely to do so going forward.
Unfortunately, from this scoring, no political party is in the ‘high’ range. By rough estimates there are about 5.1 million of us LGBT folk (using the old ‘10% of any population’ formula) – surely this is enough to warrant more political attention? Perhaps my expectations as a queer South African are too high, but it is also possible that specific LGBT issues are overshadowed by broader structural concerns in education, the economy and so on. Both of these conclusions lend themselves to some introspection as South Africans who are also part of the LGBT community.
So there you have it – a little tool linking party politics and us wonderful queer individuals. You can agree/disagree, love/hate, ignore/debate and the ‘Happy Gay Bar(ometer)’ will love you back – it is accepting like that.