Trans Woman Hunger Strike as South Africa refuses to Change Identity

Willing to die rather than live without authentic identity

By Melanie Nathan, October 09, 2014.

Nadia Swanepoel from Gauteng South Africa is willing to die rather than to be forced to continue to live with the legal identification of a man. Swanepeol began transitioning to a woman
Nadia Swanepoel from Gauteng South Africa is willing to die rather than to be forced to continue to live with the legal identification of a man. She began transitioning to a woman 4 years ago.

Nadia Swanepoel from Gauteng South Africa is willing to die rather than to be forced to continue to live with the legal identification of a man. Swanepeol began transitioning to a woman over four years ago, has started a hunger strike to protest the South African Department of Home Affairs dilatory behavior and refusal to change her name and gender. (UPDATED See below)

Further to an all inclusive Constitution in South Africa, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity, legislation was specifically passed to facilitate the transitioning process of identity changes for transgender and intersex persons.

MambaonlineAccording to Mamba Online:

“Swanepoel first applied to change both her name and her gender on her identity document in terms of the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act 49 of 2003 (Act 49).” Apparently she has been forced to reapply several times due to lost applications by the Department of Home Affairs. The Department seems to be purposely avoiding making the required change for Swanepoel, whose application conforms to the definitions as outlined by the law.

To date, despite repeated attempts, 28-year-old Swanepoel has still not received a new identity document reflecting her new name and gender identity….”

The failure to reflect her identity as a female comes at enormous emotional and financial cost to Swanepoel, who has found it difficult to find work without an authentic identity document. Her legal name  reflects her as a male instead of a female. Such failure impacts one’s ability to work, vote, updating a driving license, open bank accounts, enter into rental agreements/ loan contracts, and even to open a hospital file.

Swanepoel is refusing to drink and eat and is seeking a ‘do not attempt to resuscitate order.’ She has said she would rather die than continue to live without an identity that reflects who she is.

“It is inhumane to live like this, I feel like my life has no purpose and it frustrating because I know that other transgender woman are experiencing this difficulty,” she told Mambaonline.

Since starting her hunger strike on Tuesday, she reports – “I’m feeling a little sick today; Sick and not very strong.”

When she recently went to inquire about her latest application she was reportedly told that she needed to have genital surgery in order to meet the requirements for the change. But this does not comport with the specific definition in the legislation which says:

“Any person whose sexual characteristics have been altered by surgical or medical treatment or by evolvement through natural development resulting in gender reassignment… may apply to the Director-General … for the alteration of the sex description of his or her birth register.”

South African activists are convinced that this is a delay tactic on the part of the department, based on discrimination, insensitivity, ignorance and prejudice.

Mambaonline spoke to a number of officials at Home Affairs. Norman Ramashia, the Director for Births, Marriage & Deaths, Passports & Citizenship, insisted that Swanepoel’s claims should not be used to paint the department as a whole. He denied claims of discrimination and promised to investigate the matter.

Swanepoel said that she would continue her hunger strike until the changes had been made. It is unsure why Swanepoel has not embarked upon a lawsuit to create further awareness and to force the department to make the change. We are contacting Swanepeol and some South African LGBT organizations to find out what legal support is in place at this time.

Christina Engela from GLAAD South Africa and transgender activist told me today:

“This is shameful and disgusting. The staff at Home Affairs needs to be rounded up and given retraining on the matter of ETHICS, the human rights protections in the SA Constitution, and on compassion. This has been going on more than long enough. We are sick and tired of the government and ministers or MEC’s rushing to cover up for people in these corrupt HA departments every time a matter is delayed or deferred to the point where people refused services they are entitled to under the law, take matters to the press or make their bigotry and lack of humanity public! If they were to straighten out their staff from the ground up, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen!”

It seems that South Africa has a long way to go to have the support of Government officials match the standards and expectations of Constitution and law, alike.

PLEASE lets help Nadia Swanepoel and all those denied their rights:

Updated 10/12/2014:

– within 48 hours our petition was signed by 200 people.  The Department of Home affairs has informed Ms. Swanepoel that they will be issuing her a temporary Identity, reflecting her gender as female,  forthwith, pending permanent identity issue.

Here is an Emergency Petition  – please share widely: (Note despite update You may still sign petition until Identity document is in Ms. Swanepoel’s hands.)

4 thoughts on “Trans Woman Hunger Strike as South Africa refuses to Change Identity

  1. Reblogged this on JerBear's Queer World News, Views & More From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM and commented:
    A sad and infuriating case of bureaucratic transphobia. Be sure to sign the petition at the end of Melanie’s post.

  2. Pingback: Marriage Equality Round-Up 10/9/14
  3. Dear Nadia,

    I am pulling for you that things move in your direction. Stay strong.

    There WILL be a time when all that is happening now will be looked back upon as horrible…
    …I want that time to be now.

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