For many members of the LGBTQI+ community, June is celebrated as Pride Month – a practice originating in the United States, in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots in June 1969 in protest of the continued victimisation of the gay community by the police.
This past week, ActionSA came out in full support of the South African LGBTQI+ community and their right to equality as part of an inclusive society. We are unapologetic and unconditional in our support.
Whilst the vast majority of our supporters responded positively to our stance, some have questioned our position.
In response to their criticism, it is important to underscore ActionSA’s vision of building an inclusive and prosperous future for all South Africans. This echoes the preamble of our Constitution, which states that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”
In a society as diverse as ours – with a broad range of cultural, religious and societal views – I believe that we have a responsibility to work pro-actively to ensure equality, and guard against discrimination against any group. I am unapologetic that this includes the LGBTQI+ community.
The LGBTQI+ community is disproportionally a target of discrimination and violence, despite their right to equality as enshrined in our Constitution. Like gender inequality and gender-based violence, we have a responsibility to act against these societal evils, break down stereotypes and challenge all forms of prejudice and discrimination.
Take for example the view that our support of LGBTQI+ rights undermines the family structure and is contradictory to ActionSA’s belief in the value of family.
I have always been forthcoming in my view that healthy families are central to healthy communities. What many do not know, is that this view is guided by my upbringing.
My father passed away when I was two years old, and my mother worked as a domestic worker in Sandton. My sisters and I lived in Hammanskraal. Suffice it to say that I was not fortunate enough to grow up in a traditional family with both my parents in the same household. None the less, my siblings and extended family, particularly my grandfather, all played their part in raising me.
It is as a result of this deep-seated belief in the value of family that when I decided that I wanted to go into business, I made the decision to get married and settle down. I was inspired by the shared success of the late Dr Richard Maponya and his wife, Marina, and have always believed that family provides stability. This is why I continue to advocate for the value of family.
But – and I cannot emphasise this enough – no one has the right to decide on behalf of other people what the concept of family means to them. In a society where children are left without one or more parents due to death, divorce, migrant work or other factors, we should not judge families based on their conformity to arbitrary standards.
Whether children are raised by one parent or two, by their extended family or siblings, or by two parents of the same sex, what matters is that they are raised in love. This is what ActionSA advocates for when we talk about the value of family, regardless of how that those families are constituted.
As a black, African, heterosexual, Christian man, I am the first to acknowledge that all South Africans hold values that are guided by their individual social, cultural and religious backgrounds. The rich diversity of our nation is part of what makes me a proud South African.
When ActionSA acknowledges LGBTQI+ rights, we do not do so at the expense of anyone else’s rights. Those rights are equally protected by our Constitution. Instead, we acknowledge that all South Africans should have the freedom to live the life they choose, without fear of violence, intimidation or discrimination.
Building an inclusive South Africa requires us to look past our differences, and focussing on the factors that unite the good, law-abiding and peace-loving people of South Africa.
I firmly believe that if we can work together in spite of our differences, we can build a prosperous future in country we are all proud to call home.