21 March 2022 

For immediate release

62 years after the Sharpville Massacre of 21 March 1960, Iranti joins South Africa in commemorating Human Rights Day, remembering the lives lost fighting for the abolition of pass laws in Apartheid South Africa. 

The Sharpeville Massacre – as with other liberation struggles – points to the struggle in which democracy in South Africa was attained. It also highlights the importance of safeguarding and advocating for human rights and dignity for all. 

Pre and post-apartheid, two bodies of principles give us an opportunity to reflect on the progress in realising human rights in South Africa. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” 

Locally, the South African Constitution guarantees several rights including equality and freedom with the Bill of Rights saying: “Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity  respected and protected.” 

However, as an advocacy organisation primarily fighting for the dignity of LGBTIQ+ persons, Iranti  notes that the lived realities of LGBTIQ+ persons are strikingly different from the rights on paper. 

While LGBTIQ+ persons should constitutionally enjoy the same rights as everyone in South Africa,  the LGBTIQ+ community faces pathologisation, hate crimes and discrimination in society.

The medical system in South Africa is discriminatory and blatantly violent towards LGBTIQ+ persons with prejudiced diagnoses and pathologised medical practices. Such an example is Intersex genital mutilation (IGM) a harmful and unnecessary form of “corrective” surgery performed on intersex born children. 

The State also erodes the human dignity of LGBTIQ+ persons. Legal gender recognition is a luxury and out of reach for many LGBTIQ+ persons. Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act 49 of 2003 is an archaic law that makes life difficult for intersex and transgender people to change their legal gender due to the pathological implications when applying for gender markers. 

Iranti calls for the urgent repeal of Act 49 with the replacement of gender-affirming laws that attest to our existence. We demand a third gender marker speaks to our right to self-determine. 

Self-determination, bodily autonomy and agency are crucial in affirming one’s human dignity. We call for the end of IGM and pathologising practices at all medical facilities in South Africa. We also call on the government to engage the LGBTQI+ community on how to ensure the South African healthcare system is depathologised and affirms our gender identities, gender expressions and sex characteristics. 

Our communities, our government and South Africa as a whole have the responsibility to ensure the dignity and humanity of all citizens living in the country. 

Human rights should not be a luxury enjoyed by some. Human rights are a necessity for all.

For media enquiries contact:
Nolwazi Tusini, Communications and Media Manager

In South Africa no express law exists for Transgender and non-gender-conforming persons to amend their gender markers, except for Act 49, in South Africa. Act 49 allows transgender persons  who have begun their medical transition, intersex persons, and gender non-conforming persons, to  change the sex descriptor in their identity documents, to reflect their gender identity. This law is  currently challenged by Trans and Intersex individuals who have applied for amendments with  South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

In November 2021 Iranti was one of the civil society organisations that participated in the  SA-EU Dialogue on Policy Improvement for Transgender and Intersex Persons, in partnership with the South African government and the European Union. 

The SA-EU Dialogue (4-6 November) saw attendees discuss how to revise South African national policy so that it fully protects the human rights of Transgender and Intersex persons.
More information on the discussions that transpired at the conference, as well as some of the  commitments made by government can be found here: