Breaking Boxes claims credit for university statement

15 February 2016

Saarah Survé, Stellenbosch Department of Journalism

Stellenbosch University – Breaking Boxes, a new LGBTIQA+* movement at Stellenbosch University (SU), believes that they are responsible for a recent statement which the university released.

*LGBTIQA+ refers to persons of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and other sexual orientation.

“We believe that the statement which the university sent out was in response to the list of demands that we gave them last year. One of our first steps to making changes was for the University to make a statement,” said a member of Breaking Boxes.

The statement on dehumanisation and discrimination against students and staff, published by the Equality Unit, refers to actions against members of the LGBTIQA+ community.

The statement mentions that SU will be taking a “zero-tolerance approach with regard to all dehumanising practices on campus and in the broader society.”

Lesbigay Stellenbosch, a society at the university, posted on its Facebook page about “a continual struggle of acceptance and tolerance” for members of the LGBTIQA+ community.

Abenathi Makinana, chairperson of Lesbigay, said that even though it is a new year with infinite possibilities for their community, there is much work to be done.

“For the LGBTIQA+ community it is another year of challenging the existence of homophobia, transphobia and queerphobia (a specific type of homophobia),” said Makinana.

Makinana feels that justice has failed the LGBTIQA+ community, because only one man was convicted of the murder of David Olyn, when it is suspected that more are involved.

Olyn, who was openly gay, was from the Northern Cape and moved to Belle Vista, near Ceres, when he was 20 years old. Human rights organisation, Sonke Gender Justice, reported that his body was found bound, beaten and set alight in Bella Vista in March 2014.

After the murder of Olyn, Phoebe Titus (30), a transgender woman, was stabbed to death by a 15-year-old youth. This hate-crime took place in December 2015, in Wolseley, only ten kilometres from Ceres.

Sonke Gender Justice stated that “homophobia in the small town of Ceres is rife and that these incidents of violence and discrimination are not reported for fear of secondary victimisation from police officials and community members.”

Two members of Breaking Boxes claim that the SU environment is “hostile and violent towards members of the LGBTIQA+ community.”

Breaking Boxes was started at the end of last year, when students felt that “enough was enough,” after the university “ignored reported cases of discrimination against members of the LGBTIQA+ community.”

“It was time to speak up against the institutionalised violence against our community,” said one member.

“We are a leaderless, non-partisan collective,” they continued.

“We are coming together as a whole. It is incorrect to assume that your voice is the only one out there. That is why we have no leader,” added another member.

Unfortunately, the university’s spokesperson, Martin Viljoen, could not confirm or comment.

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