Police receiving sensitivity training

The SAPS Inter-sectoral LGBTI Imbizo logo. Photo by Pharie Sefali.

Pharie Sefali

3 September 2013

Hundreds gathered in Gugulethu last week when Deputy Minister of Police Makhotsho Maggie Sotyu addressed the relationship between the police, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community and sex workers.

Organizations such as Free Gender, Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and the Triangle Project were represented.

Funeka Soldaat, chairperson of Free Gender, said, “The gathering is a follow up on the hate crimes that took place in the townships, to voice our complaints where the police were reluctant to assist the victims of hate crimes.”

The LGBTI community is tired of feeling threatened, in some cases assaulted and killed by homophobes. The police need to protect us,” said Soldaat.

Many LGBTI people from the townships say little is being done about hate crime.

Addressing the crowd, Soldaat said the police at times forget that in the police station they were there to work, not to judge people.

“Homosexuals are scared to report crimes or to lay charges against their partners because they know that the police are going to make a mockery of them”.

Sindiswa Tafeni from the Triangle Project said that she understands that the police should not be blamed for every problem that communities have, “but I am personally sure that the police have a problem with the LGBTI community”.

Tafeni and others said the event was in good spirit, but it would have been more effective had hate crime been separated from general crime. The issue needed special attention.

Many LGBTI people and sex workers had mixed feelings about the purpose of the event and did not have much confidence in the police.

One member from SWEAT said that the police verbally abused sex workers and mistreated them when they reported an assault.

Deputy Minister Sotyu said there is an SAPS task team in place to directly assist the LGBTI community and sex workers.

She said people needed to congratulate the SAPS for going to training so that they can have an effective way of dealing with sexuality. She said for some people it is not easy, which is why it was decided to train the police to understand sexuality and how to deal with it.

Contact details for LBGTI and sex workers organisations: The Triangle Project: helpline- 0217126699 Tel: 021 6861475 SWEAT: helpline- 0800 60 60 60 Tel: 021 4487875