UCT investigation after closet burns

06 October 2010 | Story by Newsroom

Pink week launchHere and now: On Monday 4 October DVC Prof Crain Soudien cut the ribbon relaunching the Closet project. Hours later the structure was set alight and badly damaged (below).

UCT is investigating the destruction by fire of a "closet" structure that was installed by RainbowUCT, a student organisation promoting sexual diversity and human rights, in front of Jameson Hall on 4 October 2010 to launch Pink Week.

Pink Week is an initiative organised by RainbowUCT, a student-run lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) society that promotes LGBTI rights.

UCT students and staff members were encouraged to write graffiti on the sides of the pink box, called the Closet, to express their attitudes about sexual diversity.

Vice-chancellor Dr Max Price said: "One would have hoped that the rights of LGBTI are accepted and one need only celebrate that right, rather than still fight for it. However, it seems there are still people who do not acknowledge some rights embedded in our Constitution and that we definitely still have a lot of work to do to in this regard."

Torched closet

He added: "It is regrettable that this has happened. The 'closet' structure is meant to allow people to express their opinions by writing on it. The idea is precisely to encourage debate. It is regrettable that those who are responsible for burning it did not have the courage to express their opinions in an open and less destructive way. I know the UCT staff and students celebrating Pink Week will not let this incident spoil their important efforts."

After cutting the ribbon to relaunch the Closet, deputy vice-chancellor Professor Crain Soudien added his own message: "All of us. Without exception!"

RainbowUCT chair, Dylan van Vuuren, had said UCT was considered a safe haven for LGTBI people. The Closet, he said, had been intended to celebrate the country's achievements in advancing civil rights for homosexuals and to highlight the human rights violations that still plague society.

"RainbowUCT is deeply concerned by this cowardly act of arson," he said in a press statement.

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