The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a South African political party with 25 (out of 400) and 7 (out of 90) seats in the upper and lower houses of parliament, respectively, has issued a statement lambasting “sodomists”.
The statement, issued by Secretary General Godrich Gardee, says, “We are aware that attempts were made by Rapists and Sodomists from failed political organisations to instigate newspapers to write this nonsensical allegations about the EFF Spokesperson and were rejected because there is completely nothing of that nature and kind.”
Sodomy is defined at common law as “commission of an unnatural sexual act”. Until 1998, the law “criminally proscribed sodomy between men, even in private between consenting adults.”
The Criminal Procedure Act and various other linked statutes contained provisions permitting serious violations of liberty, privacy and human dignity of persons accused or suspected of sodomy. This included a power conferred on “peace officers” and “private persons” to “arrest any person with or without a valid warrant, if the officer reasonably suspects that that person has committed sodomy” and to “kill the [a person suspected of sodomy], if upon attempting to arrest the suspect, such person cannot arrest the suspect, or the suspect flees, and there is no other way to arrest the suspect or to prevent him from fleeing.”
Other laws, for example, precluded a person convicted of sodomy or their spouse and dependents from receiving a pension.
Sodomy remained an offense in South Africa until the High Court declared it unconstitutional and struck it off the statute books in 1998. The Constitutional Court confirmed the declaration of invalidity in the same year.
Quoting Professor Edwin Cameron (now also a judge at the Court), Justice Ackerman held that, “[provisions criminalising sodomy] also impinge peripherally in other harmful ways on gay men which go beyond the immediate impact on their dignity and self-esteem. Their consequences legitimate or encourage blackmail, police entrapment, violence (‘queer-bashing’) and peripheral discrimination, such as refusal of facilities, accommodation and opportunities.”
The Constitution guarantees equality, liberty, privacy and human dignity. These values, among others, are the backbone of South Africa’s constitutional democracy. However, despite these guarantees, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people are marginalized and often subjected to violence and murder.
There are widespread reports of the practice of “corrective rape” in certain parts of South Africa. A report by the Independent called this practice a “crisis”. You would not need look too hard to find reports of brutal homophobic mob attacks.
The statement by the EFF feeds the hate and marginalisation of LGBTI people. It is worth noting that the EFF statement is not in any way related to homosexuality. The crafters intended to use the term “sodomists” to cast aspersions on opponents.
The statement advocates hatred that is based on gender. It is prohibited speech. More importantly, the statement is an egregious attack on two of the most treasured institutions in South Africa: the Constitution and the rule of law.