PRETORIA – The Aids and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa (Arasa) addressed a meeting of Human Rights Defender organizations to discuss human rights issues with a focus on LGBTI issues and how to improve resources for health and responses to homophobia.
The two day meeting, in Pretoria, South Africa, began today and brings together human rights defenders from Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa.
Lynnette Mabote, the Arasa advocacy team leader said Arasa asserted that the great need to convene this special meeting of human rights defenders, especially those from civil society organizations working on human rights or HIV programs. She noted the belief that many in these positions were often unwilling or unable to address LGBTI rights violations, noting that usually the response from grassroots organizations was very weak as LGBTI were rarely involved in the design and delivery of programs.
Those in the room agreed describing the many challenges faced by organizations dealing with LGBTI or sexual minorities. Apparently the various country legal environments and misunderstandings were cited as a great barrier for LGBTI led organizations or human rights organizations that support LGBTI rights work.
One of the objectives of the meeting was to understand the national challenges faced by partners working on human rights issues concerning LGBTI communities. The hope is that by sharing the knowledge and resources, a collaboration could fill in the gaps that hamper progress in the work of the groups.
The meeting will end Wednesday and participants will try to establish what can help at the grassroots, national and regional levels to foster tolerance and acceptance in response to discrimination in institutions and amongst the general public.
The meeting will also look into how to deal with statements by some African heads of state which further enforce state sponsored homophobia.