UKZN Hosts Conference on Litigation to Decriminalise Homosexuality in Africa
The School of Law in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa and the Human Dignity Trust, recently hosted the Conference on Litigating to Decriminalize Homosexuality in Commonwealth Africa.
The three day Conference saw legal experts who are actively involved in challenging anti-gay legislation in Commonwealth countries gather at UKZN’s Howard College to share ideas and best practices for litigation and advocacy for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LTGB) community.
Delivering her address, the Dean and Head of the School of Law Professor Managay Reddi said it is appropriate that the Conference be hosted on African soil given the fact that 42 of 54 Commonwealth countries in Africa still criminalize homosexuality.
The keynote address titled: “Litigation to Decriminalize Homosexuality: A Global Overview” was delivered by the Chief Executive Officer of the Human Dignity Trust, Mr Jonathan Cooper.
The talk mapped the global situation, looked at the value of strategic analysis, the direct versus the indirect challenges and attempted to answer the questions if are there examples of global best practice and if it is worth taking the risk.
‘We need to look at how we got to the point where we are having this conversation. We should be looking at this issue not from a context of privacy but as a one of a violation of human rights. Litigation plays a critical role in cases affecting the LTGB community but the best way to decriminalize homosexuality is through legislation and not litigation,’ he said.
The other issues that were tackled and presented on during the Conference were the litigation and advocacy strategies, advocacy and the politics of the African human rights framework and regional systems, Procedural challenges to criminalisation, anticipating the case against: public morality and faith-based arguments, health and HIV related arguments and many more. The School of Law’s very own Shaun Kruger delivered a presentation on the final day on the Substantive challenges to criminalisation and the arguments raised by the Constitutional Court in the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality and another v Minister of Justice and others 1998.
During the question and answer segment, Conference participants took the opportunity to talk about the challenges that are specific to their countries and personal safety fears as they can find themselves on the wrong side of the law due to homosexuality being illegal.
OSISA’s LGBTI Program Co-ordinator, Mr Ian Southey-Swartz said that through these frank conversions they are expecting to figure out how litigation forms part of the global strategy.
‘We need to hear about what is happening on the ground and figure out what litigation means and when to pursue litigation or to leave it as a registered case. We also need to look at the advocacy strategies we can engage in to make our approach stronger as well as how to separate the advocacy and the legalities. We have the best minds in the world in this room to make all of this possible,’ he said.