Human Rights mechanisms and Solidarity building 

Fikle By Fikile Vilakazi, Coalition of African Lesbians

Presentation at the Oslo Pride International Focus Panel Discussion, Norway

I would like to thank the honourable H.E. Ambassador ArturWilcznski of Candada in Norway, for taking the initiative to organise the diplomatic core to engage is such a critical dialogue on sexuality and gender during Oslo Pride 2015. And appreciate all honourable ambassadors of South Africa, Brazil, Netherlands and Switzerland for their political willingness to participate in this critical dialogue. We sincerely appreciate the role of LLH, FOKUS and Oslo Pride for making this happen as civil society organisations organising on various issues of sexuality and gender in Norway. We appreciate you.

I would like to focus my conversation on two issues, (1) the international human rights mechanisms at national and regional level and (2) the idea of collaboration between different stakeholders. On one level the positive developments on international human rights mechanismsat the United Nations Human Rights Council [UNHRC] and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights regarding sexuality and gender are highly commendable because they enable a legal fall back for making a claim based on something that exists legally during times of political backlash and breakout of violence and as a matter of policy they serve to hold states accountable. Even for some of us who are convinced that policies in themselves do not transform people’s lives on the ground; atleast they serve as global political statements that sexuality and gender based violence is unacceptable and it must stop. So, this is excellent. On the other hand, they change nothing much in people’s lives in that we continue to be persecuted and killed as manifested all over the word. The report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR], the International Women Human Rights Defenders Report and the Women Human Rights Defender’s report of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights details such violences very well.

As a result, we ideally need to work together to stop sexuality and gender violence in the World and I think some of us are trying to do that even though it is difficult to find a common ground. The reason being that there are greater sensitivities that exist  based on sovereignty, nationalism, regionalism and coloniality politics, especially in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean that complicate ideas of solidarity and cooperation at national, regional and international level. So, if “cooperation” and “solidarity” is to be meaningful, we will need to be willing to engage openly and honestly with difficult issues that separate us because the ones that unite us are probably easier to address in that we all want a free and just World, hopefully!“We” here means the state, civil society and human rights and social institutions but it also means north/south; 1st/3rd worlds, developed/underdeveloped worlds, core/periphery in the context of globalisation and internationalisation. The “We” in this context forces us to talk about the World’s herstorical, historical divides and the legacies of violences that have occurred as a result of World wars, colonialism, imperialism, slave trade and apartheid violences because sexuality and gender politics are not immune to such legacies and for ‘true’ cooperation and solidarity to occur, we must confront this reality and the hybridisation that it has caused through which ‘we” have become. We must deal with pain, anger, frustration, and aggression in the same way as we are willing to deal with joy, kindness, love, success, happiness and so on in this context. Because as much as we are happy about some of the positive developments at the UN and the AU, we are also angry about the fact that violences continue unabated.

Practically this means surfacing and confronting the politics of the “symbolic power” of the divides that “our histories have created of whom we have become now that the “power of swords, guns and machetes” is made invisible in the name of “post” colonial….war…slavery…apartheid…etc. And construct what that means and not for “cooperation and solidarity. And be willing to engage with what it is and what it is not. We must engage with what “post” means. Is it really “post”? Is it really over or has violence taken a difference face and form in modern politics? This is not an easy task that we all must undertake in the name of cooperation and solidarity. This is going to require that as we openly and honestly engage with our wounded solidarities, that we be willing to also talk about the role of forgiveness, healing and compassion in our politics to ensure that the wounds that we carry do not demobilise our efforts because we need one another to make the change that we want to see in the World and to create the kind of sexuality and gender freedom that we need in the World. An honest conversation will also require that we center ourselves around the ways of working that are grounded in power analysis,  on people as humans, on partnerships, on politics and on process in a way that foregrounds honesty, openness, responsibility and willingness to hold together through it all with an intention to transform through pain analysis, critical healing and forgiveness. Either than that I think that the report of the OHCHR is an excellent resource which we must all accept with appreciation in as far as it articulates and surfaces violences based on sexuality and gender in the World.

All Rights Reserved with The Oslo Times

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