It is April, and this is just about a rough time for some university/college students – we got assignments after assignments, tests after tests, and soon…the boys will be separated from men (this is where people who have accumulated less than 40% as their semester mark cannot continue, they are sent packing). I will not be talking about the above idea, but with something which really stood out to me today – and that is the Power of a Dialogue.

On April 9 2014, the local newspaper (that being The Herald), together with the LGBTI Society at my university came together in hosting a dialogue, which essentially deals with the issues around LGBTI in my country (that being South Africa), the Anti-Gay acts happening in Uganda, and above all, the situation around the world. I must say, out of all the dialogue’s/debates I have attended, this one goes down in my books as truly being the most inspirational, and yet informative dialogue. The dialogue featured a touching poem, done by the executive members of the university LGBTI Society, and two activists – Melaine Nathan and Christine Engela. Both activists delivered a thought-provoking, and inspirational speech.

The dialogue took place in one of the university’s senate halls – which look and feel so classy when you walk in, it gives you that feeling that you in parliament, with the important political figures :). Topics at hand were the LGBTI situation in South Africa – which sort of expanded into other area’s such as the importance of the constitution, the political figures influencing, or rather, that could influence the constitution, and the LGBTI situation around the world. What made this dialogue so interesting was that it was not your usual lecture, where the facts are read straight out of some textbook or PowerPoint slides – this dialogue had that “personal” feeling to it – the content used was rich – had a combination of facts + personal experience(s) from the activists + a short, yet sweet, low-down of what is happening around the world. What really surprised me here, was the explanation of the current situation surrounding LGBTI in Uganda – Melaine Nathan gave a really in-depth explanation of what really is happening in the front-line and behind the scenes. These are some that I remember:

  •  The situation in Uganda is a huge violation of human rights:
    • Witch hunts are being done – a list of people who are thought to be gay are published on newspapers
    • Acts of mob justice, murder, and sexual abuse is happening
  • The “Anti-Gay” movement is more than what it seems to be:
    • This movement is being “fanned” by mostly your religious extremists – this results in giving religion a bad name
    • This opens up a lot of opportunities for politicians involved
      • They can get away with acts of corruption and other crimes
      • By them supporting the “Anti-Gay” movement, they will get their “fame” from the narrow-minded people
    • Real issues such as poverty, crime, unemployment, etc. are completely tossed aside
    • Because the “Religious Extremists” are losing their battles in their home-base’s, they have decided to take their battles to other countries which have not reached that “open-minded” state
  • This is the new form of Apartheid

I honestly had no idea that a situation like this could go far deeper than what one initially thinks it is…and I am glad that I have heard all of this. It really got me thinking, how could such horrendous acts happen, how could such horrendous acts be legalized and above all, how could they even allow such acts to happen…surely, you can see that people are being harmed in the process?

Another thing that really got me worried was hearing our very own president (President Jacob Zuma) respecting the anti-gay laws in Uganda…that he says he respects such acts in Uganda really makes me worry – it makes me worry that South Africa could follow the very same fate as Uganda – It is sad to believe this, but I do think that the laws in a specific country can be changed at any time, provided if everyone in the law making process is in on it 🙁

The response from the audience was great, one particular response really made my day – I noticed an old woman (she looked well in her 70’s), and she said the following words in her comment: “This is a violation of human rights”. These may look like simple words, and I would agree, that these are simple words, however, in the setting they were used, they were the most powerful words – these are words coming from someone who has had experience with the “old times” – that being Apartheid, and the new times – this being the new South Africa. For someone of that age to say such words, really means so much….almost like on another whole new level of satisfaction 🙂

All in all, I am glad I took the time to pitch up at the dialogue – this was truly an inspiring, exhilarating experience for me. Not only did it give me a brief taste of what is really happening around the world, it has actually made me seriously think about reality, what is really happening around me, as well as what I can do. To add on this point, it has also added some “light” into my life, this light of not being scared of people, and living the life you wish!!

One thing is certain – Melaine Nathan and Christine Engela go down in my books as my hero’s…I hope to be like them one day, seriously!!

LGBTI Rights - an interesting image I found on the interwebs :)
LGBTI Rights – an interesting image I found on the interwebs 🙂

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