Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said he was shocked to learn on Tuesday that officials from his own department demanded that same-sex couples ‘prove’ they were gay before they could register their marriage.
Gigaba said such treatment of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community was “quite inhumane, malicious and anti-public service that I cannot accept in my good conscience”.
“What shocked me the most was the attitude of the officials. When people come forward to get married, the officials ask them to provide ‘proof’ that they are gay or lesbian.
What kind of proof are you asking for? That shocks,” Gigaba said as he addressed journalists in Pretoria.
“There are two people (foreign nationals) who have applied for asylum. These two individuals came to apply for asylum at our offices and again they were asked to provide proof. Again I ask, what type of proof were those officials asking for?”
Gigaba said the officials were overstepping their professional mandate and heads would roll.
“The legal provision (for home affairs staff) to object to conducting same sex marriages meant you must provide, beforehand, your objection so that it is recorded. Nowhere in the Civil Union Act do we grant anybody a right to ask somebody whether they can provide proof of their same sex status. Neither do we ask heterosexual couples to provide proof that they are heterosexual,” he said.
“Nowhere in the law is there such a provision. That’s a clear, blatant and malicious violation of our laws, our procedures and regulations and the Constitution. We need to react in a manner that imposes penalty on wrongdoing so that wrongdoers know that they cannot continue to do it.”
The minister addressed media after a meeting with several representatives of the LGBTI community. He said the meeting was fruitful and an eye-opener.
A task team would now be established to deal with the numerous concerns raised by the LGBTI members and provide a status report to Gigaba within two weeks.
Joshua Sehoole, regional coordinator for Iranti-org, applauded Gigaba’s intervention and for inviting the LGBTI to the roundtable discussion.
“We believe very firmly that in going forward and in mapping out an approach to the different issues, it is important to engage the community affected and to come to the best possible intervention, together with the community itself. We’re also very happy with the minister’s commitment to the timelines that he set and the urgency he is acting with,” said Sehoole.
“We are always very happy when the department acts to recognise the human rights of LGBTI people in the country. We also hope that this is something that other government departments and the government as a whole will continue to do, not only nationally, but in the region and globally.” – ANA (Edited by Michelle Solomon)