One of Swaziland’s most vocal pro-democracy groups has called for a new law to ban hate speech against homosexuals.
The call by the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) follows a debate in the Swazi House of Assembly in which MP Aaron Sotsha Dladla called for gays and lesbians to be outlawed in the kingdom.
Dladla said a new law should be put in place to deal with ‘this mushrooming anti-social’ behaviour of gays and lesbians. He went on to make a number of disparaging comments about homosexuals.
The Swazi Observer reported him saying, ‘We must first pass a law that will ban this practice before it takes root. Anyone found breaking that law should be dealt with severely.’
The SSN responded in a statement by calling MPs and members of Swaziland’s ruling elite ‘ghastly hypocritical’ because, it said, some of them were themselves closet homosexuals. It also claimed a prominent member of the Swazi Royal Family was a lesbian.
Gays and lesbians are routinely victimised in Swaziland. In November 2011, Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, said Swaziland would not give human rights to gay people, because they did not exist in the kingdom.
He was responding to criticism of Swaziland by a United Nations (UN) working group on human rights that said the kingdom should enact equality laws for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.
A group called HOOP (House of Our Pride), a support group for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Inter-sex (LGBTI) people, reported to the UN, ‘It is a common scene for LGBTI to be verbally insulted by by-passers in public places. [There is] defamatory name calling and people yelling out to see a LGBTI person’s reproductive part are some of the issues facing LGBTI in Swaziland.’
‘Faith houses have been known to discriminate against LGBTI, advocating for the alienation of LGBTI in the family and society, while maintaining that these LGBTI are possessed by demons.’
HOOP also said LGBTI people were often discriminated against at work and there had been well known cases of this.
In one of the first reports of its kind detailing sexual orientation discrimination in Swaziland, HOOP revealed, ‘LGBTI are hugely discriminated against in the community, as they are not recognized at community meetings and their points are often not minuted at these meetings nor are they allowed to take part in community services.’
Police often ridiculed LGBTI people if they reported they had been victims of violent crime. ‘A good example of such practices is in the on-going case of a well-known LGBTI in Swaziland, Patricia Dludlu, who is currently in incarceration for a different offence but is constantly ridiculed by the media and police because of her sexuality.’
GAY PREJUDICE RIFE IN SWAZILAND