Out of the closet and into the street

By Kyle Robinson

Pic by Desiree Schirlinger

Colourful t-shirts, big banners and zealous chanting were at the core of Rhodes students’ “March Against Hate” on Friday 16 May. The march was in anticipation of the International Day Against Homophobia on 17 May. The procession led students from High Street to Shaw Square and transport back to campus was provided. In a show of solidarity, student societies, the Student Representative Council (SRC) and other organisations united in protesting against human rights violations.

“Homophobia has no place at Rhodes,” said Dr Sizwe Mabizela, Rhodes deputy vice-chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs, who attended the event. “We must stand and assert our right to be who we want.” Participants wore pink triangles – similar to those used to identify homosexual people in Nazi concentration camps. These triangles have since become a symbol of the gay liberation movement. The participants raised placards with defiant statements, such as “My sexuality has nothing to do with you” and “We’re queer! Get used to it”.

OutRhodes treasurer, Sekoetlane Jacob Phamodi, told Activate that there was still much public outrage over the rape and murder of Eudy Simelane, as well as other recent human rights abuse victims. Simelane was raped, tortured and murdered on 28 April in the Kwa-Themba township, as a result of homophobic rage. There has been a string of such cases, which the One in Nine Campaign described as a “butchers’ bill of women”.

“The brutal rape and murder of lesbians in our townships is shocking, disgusting, and unacceptable,” said Beth Vale, president of the Student HIV/Aids Resistance Campaign (SHARC). Alan Kirkaldy, the co-chair of the National Tertiary Education and Staff Union (NTESU) of Rhodes University added that, “We cannot claim that we have achieved the goal of liberation when we live in a society where violence against people is allowed to continue.” Vale and Kirkaldy were angered by the prevalence of “hate crime”.

“It’s a violation of human rights to make us fear who we are,” said OutRhodes Chairperson James Hamilton. “No man, woman, or government can tell us who we can love,” he said.

Rhodes History lecturer, Carla Tsampiras, said that society should challenge patriarchal structures and deal with domestic issues.

The march sent a resilient message from OutRhodes, the SRC, SHARC, the Treatment Action Campaign at Rhodes, and the Gender Action Project that they are committed to raising public condemnation of homophobia.

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