An LGBTIQ rights group in Swaziland (eSwatini) has been denied permission to register because its objectives are deemed ‘annoying’.
The Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorites (ESGM) was also told the Swazi Constitution did not include sexual orientation on the list of protections against discrimination.
Melusi Simelane, Founder and Executive Director of ESGM, said this suggested the government refused to recognise the existence of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer) people in the kingdom.
Simelane was writing in a report on LGBTI experiences in Swaziland recently published. He said LGBTI identities were not criminalised in Swaziland but colonial laws that included the crime of sodomy still existed. He said this suggested homosexuality was ‘simply about a sexual act rather thana broader issue of love and respect’.
He added the outdated laws violated constitutional rights. He said despite the law the state did not prosecute consenting adults.
The government has refused to register ESGM which would allow it to operate legally in the kingdom.
Simelane said it wrote to the group saying it could not be registered ‘because the objects of the organisation are “misleading” and “annoying”.
‘They quoted the common law contrary to their assumed policy of not prosecuting consenting adults. This, coupled with the government blatantly saying the constitution doesn’t list sexual orientation on the list of protections against discrimination, suggests that the government refuses to recognise our existence and further our rights and freedoms.’
He added, ‘When addressing policy makers evidence of human rights violations is necessary to make the case for LGBTIQ equality. In a society that scares people into silence and invisibility, evidence becomes a scare commodity.’
A report published in 2019 written by two academics and the Southern and East African Research Collective on Health found evidence of serious human rights violations against Swazi people who are LGBTI. The report concluded they suffered ‘social exclusion, marginalisation and stigma’ because they were seen as being different from the rest of the population.
This, the report said, ‘has a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex’.
Swaziland is a deeply conservative kingdom ruled by the absolute monarch King Mswati III. The King has in the past described homosexuality as ‘satanic’ In May 2016 four organisations jointly reported to the United Nations about LGBTI discrimination in Swaziland. Part of their report stated, ‘LGBT[I]s are discriminated and condemned openly by society. This is manifest in negative statements uttered by influential people in society e.g., religious, traditional and political leaders. Traditionalists and conservative Christians view LGBT[I]s as against Swazi tradition and religion. There have been several incidents where traditionalists and religious leaders have issued negative statements about lesbians.’
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