What we need to do to tackle queerphobic hate crimes beyond our Constitution

Refilwe Moloto spoke to Justice Edwin Cameron on how we can better protect members of the LGBTQI+ community from hate crimes and discrimination. 

South Africa has one of the most inclusive Constitutions in the world, but despite the advanced human rights laws highlighted in it, queer people still face the brunt of a failing legal system and queerphobia in society.

Though there is a rise in understanding that queerness doesn't equate to unnaturalness, it would be hard-pressed to find people with non-normative gender and sexual identities who haven't experienced some form of direct or indirect oppression because of it.

So what does the country need to do to protect the rights and lives of the queer community?

The answer doesn't seem to be as simple as the presence of anti-discriminatory constitutional rights.

However, former Constitutional Court judge, Edwin Cameron says that there has been progress regarding the Hate Crimes Act related to the rape, assault, murder, and ever-present discrimination of queer people in the country.

Deputy Minister (of Justice and Correctional Services), John Jeffrey tells me that the public hearings on the Hate Crimes Bill for queer people, protecting queer people and the National Assembly's Justice and Correctional Service Committee have been completed. The committee still needs a response from the Department of Justice in Constitutional Development.

Edwin Cameron - former Constitutional Court judge and chancellor of Stellenbosch University

Cameron goes on to highlight that the implementation of more legislature and harsher criminal sentences is not enough to protect South Africa's queer community.

Rather, he posits that the answer to what the state needs to do to protect the community is to focus on an active dedication to the enforcement of these laws.

What we need in our country is enforcement. We need people to follow up, we need crime intelligence, we need the CID, we need detectives. We need follow up on every assaults, every rape, every murder... harsher sentences is not the answer.

Edwin Cameron - former Constitutional Court judge and chancellor of Stellenbosch University

Find out more about what you can do to end the systematic enforcement of the 'bury your gays' trope by visiting the LGBT+ activism organisation The Triangle Project's website here.

Listen to the full audio above.

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