UCT fights stigmatisation of homosexuals

11 October 2011 | Story by Newsroom

At the launch of the annual Pink Week on 10 October, it became apparent that UCT is fighting an invisible but insidious enemy when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) rights.

After the unveiling of the 'Closet', a symbolic closet placed on Jameson Plaza to highlight human rights violations such as prejudice and discrimination against the gay community, immediate messages scribbled on it were supportive.

Laura Barrett students attending
Endorsement: VC Dr Max Price added his words of support to the Closet. Pink activism: Student Anele Nxumalo, Eugene 'Huge' Brockman (designer of the Gay Flag of South Africa), his partner Henry Bantjez, and student Nokuthula Mpanza celebrate the launch of UCT's Pink Week.

But the truth is that not everyone is singing the same tune. Most will remember, of course, that in 2010 the Closet was set alight.

Although there have been no incidents of physical abuse, emotional abuse cases - in the form of hate words - have been reported. But cases such as these are difficult to prove, according to Lindelwa Khowane, chairperson of RainbowUCT, Pink Week organisers.

Khowane believes that such abuses are perpetuated by beliefs that LGBTIQ rights conflict with certain cultural and religious traditions.

Nevertheless, most people are supportive of RainbowUCT's cause, and the organisation has grown in numbers.

Vice-chancellor Dr Max Price noted that the Pink Week campaign is about recognising that, although South Africa has a Constitution that protects sexual orientation, society still stigmatises homosexuality. He called on students to endorse, support and celebrate Pink Week, and support those who are fighting stigma.

The Students' Representative Council's Kathleen Taylor said the overwhelming support of Pink Week is testimony that UCT students are opposed to the stigmatisation that still exists throughout South Africa.

Pink Week runs until 14 October.

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