Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Swaziland Govt tells High Court LGBTI acts are illegal because they are ‘unnatural’

A representative of the Swaziland (eSwatini) Government told the kingdom’s High Court LGBTI people were ‘unnatural’ and their campaign group was unlawful.

Siboniso Nkambule, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade, was opposing an application from the Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM) group to be officially registered.

The Registrar of Companies had previously refused to register the association so that it could operate legally in the kingdom. ESGM has a number of objectives including to advance the protection of the rights of LGBTI people in Swaziland and reduce harm that affect their wellbeing based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.

Nkambule told the court, ‘May I state that every other sexual action other than what is in the order of nature, capable of producing offsprings is unnatural and, therefore, prohibited in terms of our laws.’

The Times of eSwatini reported Nkambule said in an affidavit, ‘The actions of Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities constitute unnatural action which ought to be stopped in our society for purposes of our young generations as well as the public interest.’

The matter is still pending in court.

Discrimination against LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) people in Swaziland is widespread but in recent years they have become more visible and vocal. The first ever Pride march took place in 2018.

Melusi Simelane, Founder and Executive Director of ESGM, writing in a report on LGBTI experiences in Swaziland 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 than a 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He added the outdated laws violated constitutional rights.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.

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 were 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.’  

See also

LGBTI discrimination in Swaziland leads to big mental health issues, report finds
LGBT Pride film shows what it’s like to live with prejudice and ignorance in Swaziland

LGBTI Pride gets global attention

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