Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, says Swaziland will not give human rights to gay people, because they don’t exist in the kingdom.
Or, he concedes, if they do exist there are too few of them to worry about.
Gamedze was responding to criticism of Swaziland by a United Nations working group on human rights that said the kingdom should enact equality laws for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.
He told the Times Sunday newspaper government would not recognise and legalise same-sex marriages because homosexuals either do not exist or form a minority in Swaziland.
The newspaper reported Gamedze saying it was hard to introduce rights for people who did not exist. If they existed, he said, they were very few – ‘very very few’.
The newspaper reported Gamedze saying, ‘It was difficult for government to formulate a policy on homosexuals or enact a law to recognise them because they actually formed a minority if ever they existed.’
The minister said the position of Swaziland on homosexuals was that ‘the numbers do not permit us to start processing a policy’.
Gamedze’s ignorance is breath-taking, because, of course, there is no state in the world where LGBT people are in a majority, but that doesn’t stop other countries, such as South Africa, enacting laws to ensure members of this community have their rights. In a democracy it is up to the majority to ensure that minorities have the same rights as everyone else.
Gamedze showed further ignorance when he told the Times Sunday that there was no LGBT group in Swaziland that was asking for recognition. In fact one group called HOOP (House of Our Pride), had reported to the very same UN working group that had criticised the Swazi government.
HOOP had said LGBT ‘are hugely discriminated against in the Swazi 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 ridicule LGBT people if they report they have been victims of violent crime, HOOP reported.
HOOP is calling on the Government to include LGBT issues in its agenda to help to increase the acceptance of LGBT, even at community levels in Swaziland.
Not everyone in Swaziland is as ignorant as Gamedze.
Muzi Mhlanga, the Secretary General of the Labour Coordinating Council (LCC), told the Times Sunday the kingdom’s three main labour organisations backed human rights for LGBT people.
He said that rights for gays and lesbians were discussed everywhere they attended conferences. He said the LGBT community should not be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation.
He said, ‘We would definitely fight for a [union] member who has been fired or expelled from school or work on the basis of sexual orientation.’