20th Mar2017

Gender and Sexuality Issues Under the Political Lens

by admin

Gender inequality and discrimination based on sexuality have always been issues that have brought with them pertinent discussions and debates. A lot of “important people” debate and deliver speeches about issues on social media platforms; however, the truth is we have never really seen any of these problems being practically addressed. We live in a country where equality and fairness are always encouraged; the representation of all people is something that is highly emphasised. However, this does not reflect the reality for most people. Please note that this article is based on my own personal views and opinions and I do stand to be corrected.

For years we have been about feminism this and feminism that. And I say “we” because I, myself have been a part of those who have considered themselves a feminist without really taking into account the conditions under which feminism exists in this country. After attending the Feminism Indibano organised by SASCO Wits (credit ought to be given to the speakers) I have come to believe that feminism is not only about our social stance; it is also about how our political institutions have a bigger role in reinforcing what the social institutions preach. The social hierarchy pyramid places us black women at the very bottom, with black men right above us. This means that black women have three privileged groups “oppressing” them. For years, non-feminist have not understood the fuss around being “equal” has been about; and have went on complaining about how black women want to be “equal” to men. The truth is that WE DON’T AND HAVE NEVER WANTED TO BE THE SAME AS, AND EQUAL TO, these other groups. Why be equal to a black man who is oppressed on the basis of his race? Why be equal to a white woman, when her gender disadvantages her? And why be equal to a white man who has the ultimate power over our lives and could oppress us at any given time? However, this is a story for another day.

The main issue at hand is, how are our political institutions addressing sexuality inequality and discrimination? As much as we have a women’s league in South Africa, what has its role been in ensuring that women are well represented in state government? Of all the premiers in the current cabinet only one is female. This brings forth the question about what the state is saying about its faith in women leadership and its stance on the patriarchs who constantly take feminist movements two steps back. The political field as a whole is held by men and is also driven by them. And as long as such issues are not reinforced in the one “field” that practically runs everything issues of such importance will never be adequately addressed.

Coming to the representation of sexuality in our country, well, this has been a dismal fail. This is despite there being a youth league that is supposed to be representing the young people as well as ensuring the problems the youth are encountering are addressed by the national government. We are facing a difficult time of being discriminated against on the grounds of our sexuality. We are facing high rates of unemployment. And as students, we are faced with the challenge of high university fees whilst we are making the call for free decolonised education. How is our youth league attempting to address such? We ought to have a division in the youth league which will be mainly run by people who know the struggles which come with being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (part of the LGBT community). We may all be young people; however, we do not all face the same daily challenges. It is for this reason that I believe that political institutions should be inclusive and regularly address issues related to those of genders/sexuality regardless of economic status. And as much as we would like to mostly focus on women, we cannot ignore the fact that there are “men” who identify as women and “women” who identify as men. Thus, we have to consider the discrimination that comes with that identification. Politics practically run this world, and if issues of such importance cannot be addressed using politics, then clearly equality will never exist.

Please do excuse the lack of academic language in this article, but I do hope it provokes thoughts and questions about what role the political arena is, and should, be playing in creating a gender/sexuality inclusive environment in the country.


12th Oct2015

Wits Workers Strike

by admin

Nokuthula Mkwanazi gives voice to the workers of Wits in her piece that details the recent strike that took place at Wits.


On Tuesday, October 5th, Wits students stood in solidarity with Wits workers and participated in a protest march. The march started in front of Wits’ Great Hall and ended at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

The strike posed as a protest against Wits outsourcing labour, by means of labour brokers, who’s employment contracts leave room for worker exploitation. This exploitation is evident in that the cleaners who work for Wits University are only paid R2000 per month, with no medical aid benefits. One of the cleaning staff who was interviewed (and requested to remain anonymous), spoke of how they are exposed to harmful chemicals daily, yet do not have medical aid. They further stated that if they fall ill, they caanot afford to miss work as they are not paid for sick-days. The staff member went on to say that it is a near impossible task to care for themselves as well as their family on a salary less than that of a mineworker.

An interview conducted with one of the strike leaders, Ontiretse Phethlo, additionally revealed the discrimination that workers are exposed to. He declared that workers such as the cleaners and gardeners alike, are prohibited from sitting on the benches and using the toilets that they clean. Upon hearing this news, one can see why the workers have had enough of their inhumane conditions of employment and management who refuse to hear out their grievances.

18th Aug2014

Indignation at religious discrimination

by admin

yoYasmeen Osman looks at the issue of religious discrimination.

Islamophobia. The word itself is quite self-explanatory: fear of Islam. Islam is the one religion that receives the most condemnation in the world. Following the 9/11 attacks, anxiety levels skyrocketed as stereotypes further emerged that Muslims was perceived as a potential threat. Therefore, it can be argued that the post-9/11 world that we live in today is better known as the era of Islamophobia.

We have seen various acts against Muslims in the recent past that are horrifying. In America we have seen the firebombing of mosques, the death of a Muslim man who was pushed in front of a subway train and the stabbing of another outside a mosque. What is most upsetting about these acts is that it appears as though they happened because of the perpetrators disdain with Islam and Muslim people. This could be because certain stereotypes suggest some link between Muslims and terrorism.

I am a South African Muslim who has spent almost half my life living in the Middle East. Speaking from personal experience, I have seen how these stereotypes are not true. How can the actions of a few define an entire religion? While one should assume that there would be a level of awareness with regards to stereotyping in the modern day, this is clearly not the case. We still see Muslims (including those of American origin and nationality) who are subjected to comprehensive searches at American airports and regular humiliating discrimination. However, the United States is not the only country guilty of such crimes. Recently, China has come under the spotlight for discriminating against Muslims.

The Xinjiang region of China is one that has manyMuslims. One of the cities in the region, Karamay, has recently imposed a ban on people with large beards or Islamic clothing. The ban suggests that they are prohibited from travelling on public buses during the Xinjiang Sports Games. The ban is being publicized as one of numerous security measures for the duration of the Sports Games and will end on August 20. Furthermore, nearly 100 people have been killed in an attack that occurred in Xinjiang two weeks ago. Of these 100 people, 59 were said to have been terrorists. This further highlights the stereotype that establishes a link between Muslims and terrorism. The Chinese state media reported that most of the fatalities were “terrorists.” The attacks are a result of restrictions on cultural and religious liberties that have been enforced on the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority. Consequently, one cannot help feeling angry at such stereotyping and discrimination.

Last month in the same region, Muslim students and civil officials were ordered by the state to avoid participating in fasting during the month of Ramadan. This ban was said to be protective of and advantageous to students’ wellbeing as fasting was detrimental to the health of students. Furthermore, it prevented the promotion of Islam because “No teacher can participate in religious activities”, according to a statement on the website of the “Number 3 Grade School” in Ruoqiang County in Xinjiang.

Whilst I name and shame prejudiced countries, South Africa is not excluded from the list. Last year, plans to build a mosque incited tension in the suburb of Valhalla in Pretoria. Residents were concerned about being disturbed by the mosque’s five- times-a-day call to prayer. The community was said to have been a long-established Christian community and believed that the Muslims did not want to integrate but rather take over. Furthermore, Muslim inhabitants of the area were apparently told to get out because they are terrorists and that they should go back to their country. The fatuity in that statement is that the Muslims are South African. How can they go back to a country that they are already in?

In another case, three men in Cape Town attacked a Muslim man earlier this year. The man, a teacher and student at an Islamic institution, was not only verbally but also physically abused for wearing Islamic clothing. Based on these examples it seems as if the innate law of the freedom to practice one’s religion unrestrictedly has either been forgotten or never actually existed in the first place.

Thirteen years after 9/11, some people see a man with traditional clothing and a beard and automatically assume he is a terrorist. The sad irony is that not one of the nineteen hijackers involved in 9/11 wore traditional clothing or had beards. Despite this, an interesting statistic shows that prior to 9/11, the FBI recorded only 28 hate crimes against Muslims. The following year it increased to 481.

Religious discrimination is an issue that is not only confined to the United States but to the world. I argue that it is on the same parity as slavery and racism because all three have one thing in common: crime against humanity and a violation of a person’s human rights. It does not necessarily mean that just because one Muslim may have committed extremist activities that all Muslims are inclined to do the same thing. We need to see an end to discrimination.

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