In 2014, transgender woman Nadia Swanepoel went on a hunger strike to protest discriminatory treatment at the hands of the Department of Home Affairs after the process to change her name and her gender marker on her identity document in terms of the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act 49 of 2003 (Act 49) had been ongoing for over 3 years.

Department of Home Affairs still fails to systematically address discrimination against Transgender and Intersex people despite numerous meetings with T&I NGOs over the years on Act 49.

Her struggle is one of many, and a reflection of systematic bias within the Department of Home Affairs system. The lack of regulations to oversee and streamline the application process at Home Affairs has meant that the application process is left to the whims of Home Affairs’ officials and their prejudices. This has resulted in applications taking years to be processed, getting lost or simply being rejected without sufficient reasons. For intersex South Africans the provisions in Act 49 are harsh as well, legislating a pre-requisite unbroken 2 year period during which they must “satisfactorily prove” their gender, as well as medically proving intersex status – invasive and cumbersome requirements.

South African Trans and Intersex people are denied access to IDs, effectively denying them voting rights.

Without an accurate ID, a person is hindered in seeking employment, is unable to enter into contracts such as bank accounts, store accounts, rental agreements, loan contracts and unable to access services such as grants, housing shelters, opening a hospital file, updating a driver’s licence and denied their right to vote. The state’s failure to provide transgender and intersex persons with the necessary documentation renders trans and intersex South Africans non-citizens, and puts them at increased risk of being seen as fraudulent which subjects them to humiliation and potential arrests. It grants to cisgender people rights denied to transgender and intersex populations. The Department of Home Affairs’ lack of will with regard to enabling gender marker changes disenfranchises transgender and intersex voters, creates a system of gate-keeping of citizenship and perpetuates grave injustices and human rights violations against the transgender and intersex populations.

The 2016 South African municipal elections will be held on 3 August 2016. Iranti will intensify its advocacy actions for individuals who have been waiting for their correct ID cards and seek immediate remedies before election time.

If you have applied for a gender marker change under Act 49 and are still waiting for your ID, please contact us through Survey Monkey to enable us to urgently assist you while we continue to fight for structural reform.

Iranti is part of the ACTion49 Campaign – an Iranti, Gender Dynamix, LRC coalition fighting for better implementation of, and immediate redress for applicants under the Act 49 as well as of the broader Self-Identification and Bodily Autonomy Legal Reform working group – a coalition of South African Trans and Intersex focused NGOs and individuals whose goals include pursuit of reforms that will allow transgender and intersex persons to access socio-economic rights, such as the rights to education, social assistance and non-discriminatory employment opportunities; and pursuit of self-identification and the depathologisation of transgender and intersex identities within the healthcare and legal fields.