Statement by South Africa under agenda item 8, entitled “Follow-Up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action”, Sixteenth session of he Human Rights Council, Geneva, 22 March 2011

Mr President,

Yesterday  South Africa celebrated Human Rights Day, a day that has been declared an International Day on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in honour of and remembrance of South Africans who were massacred in Sharpville, South Africa on 21 March 1960 for campaigning against the law that compelled them to carry Pass documents whenever they entered areas that had been segregated for “Europeans”. Such was the brutality of the Apartheid, a policy which was declared a crime against humanity by the General Assembly.

South Africa continues to be inspired by its Constitution, which was crafted such that the principles of human dignity, equality and non-discrimination underpin our policies, including on the issue of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. South Africa therefore takes the floor under Agenda Item 8, entitled “Follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action”. My Government has taken the decision to support the statement which has been presented by the group of countries, entitled “Joint statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity”.

We would like however, to provide the following comments. The Joint Statement has procedural concerns which we as South Africa have indicated to some of the sponsors, which we similarly mentioned previously in other statements in 2006 and 2008 at the level of the UN General Assembly in New York.

At the national level, sexual orientation is not a new issue for South Africa, which was already addressed in the 1955 Freedom Charter which indicated that South Africa should be a non-racist, non-sexist society, among others. We believe therefore, that discussions on such a sensitive issue should be done within an inclusive and transparent process as the current joint statement being presented lacks the vision on how to protect victims and the process of ensuring their promotion and protection.

As Nigeria, on behalf of the African Group mentioned in the statement, the issue of sexual orientation is sensitive and impacts on a whole range of issues including culture and religion. South Africa firmly believes that this issue should be addressed openly, transparently and inclusively.

It is for these reasons that we have called for an intergovernmental process, both at the level of the UN General Assembly and in the Human Rights Council. In this regard, we would like to draw the attention of delegations to the statement South Africa made during the adoption of the resolution on “ Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” in the General Assembly on December 22, 2010. We expressly mentioned that the issue of sexual orientation needs to be clearly defined. In this regard, we have tabled a resolution during this Sixteenth Session of the Human Rights Council, entitled “The imperative need to respect the established procedures and practices of the United Nations General Assembly in the elaboration on new norms and standards and their subsequent integration into existing international human rights law”.

The draft resolution by South Africa seeks to address the concerns that we have.

I thank you Mr President.   

For further information please contact Mr. Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for DIRCO, on 082 884 5974.


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23 March 2011


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