Centre for Human Rights and Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender condemn Orlando massacre

Posted on June 22, 2016

Sunday, 12 June 2016, was a sad day in the history of the struggle for LGBTI rights. Fifty revellers were gunned down at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, Florida, USA. The gunman's actions were apparently inspired by his hatred for persons whose sexual orientation or gender identity did not conform to his idea of the norm.

The University of Pretoria's centres for Human Rights (CHR) and Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G) believe in, and work for the realisation of, the rights of all persons on the African continent, including sexual minorities, based on the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. We strongly condemn this heinous act, and call upon all persons around the globe to respect the rights of others.

Violence against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is a violation of international human rights law. In its 2015 Report on Violence against LGBTI persons, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights incorporated the concept of violence based on prejudice to examine violence committed against LGBTI persons. The Commission found that violence based on prejudice requires context and social complicity; that it has a symbolic impact, sending a message to the whole LGBTI community; and that the perpetrator's motivation needs to be understood as complex and multi-faceted. These acts should therefore not be seen as occurring in isolation; they arise out of socially embedded views and are socially enabled. Preventing them requires a combination of legal and social reform, and the engagement of multiple actors.

The CHR has worked with other human rights organisations to support the African Commission on Human and People's Rights' Resolution on Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity (Resolution 275), which the Commission passed in May 2014. The CSA&G plays an advocacy role in promoting an understanding of the complexities of sexuality and gender in the academy and in various social and organisational contexts.

The work of both centres is informed by an understanding of the complexity of contexts across the African region. From 'corrective rape' in South Africa, to killings and arbitrary arrests in Uganda, Nigeria, Senegal and Egypt, news reports abound with stories of LGBTI persons being persecuted for being who they are in Africa.

The Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender therefore stand in solidarity with the American civil rights movement, the LGBTI movement, and their leaders, on this sorrowful occasion when we mourn those who were killed and wounded in the Orlando shooting, as well as their partners, friends and families. We note that not all the victims necessarily identified as LGBTI, and may have been in the Pulse club as friends, allies and supporters. All these lives matter.

We call upon the government of the United States of America, and indeed all governments, to acknowledge the rich diversity of their populace and to meaningfully challenge laws and social attitudes that enable such hate crimes. All of humanity is united in the spirit of Ubuntu – 'You are because I am.'


Orlando shooting memorial


On 15 June 2016, a vigil was held for the victims of the Orlando shooting and other victims of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.


Click here to view photos of the vigil held for the victims of the Orlando Shooting.

Download this press statement in PDF format


For more information, please contact:

Geoffrey Ogwaro
Coordinator: LGBTI Unit
Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
Pierre Brouard
Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender, University of Pretoria


- Author Centre for Human Rights and Centre for Sexualities AIDS and Gender

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