Senators in Swaziland threw out a motion to make a report on access to health facilities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and/or intersexual (LGBTI) people because it was 'discrimination' in favour of them.
The Swazi Observer reported, on Tuesday (13 June 2017), 'Senator Phumelela, who was very critical of the motion, said she wanted to know from the mover if people of the LGBTI community suffered sicknesses different from heterosexual people.
'"Is their flu different from our flu, because I don't understand why they would need special treatment if they get sick the same way that we do," she said. She further urged senators to be wary of this motion because it would come back to haunt the nation one day.'
It added, 'When throwing out the motion the senators said it was discriminatory from where they were standing as the mover was calling for the special treatment of the LGBTI community in health facilities.'
Senator Lindiwe Ngwenya, who moved the motion for a report, said LGBTI people were, 'met with resistance when visiting health facilities as nurses and doctors had an attitude towards them'.
The Observer reported, 'She further stated that it was important that they also get appropriate access to health facilities like heterosexual people if the country was serious about fighting illnesses like cancer and HIV.
'Ngwenya further substantiated that LGBTI people were also normal human beings who had to be afforded equal rights as enshrined in the constitution of the land and one of such was access to health facilities.'
The Times of Swaziland reported the debate threw the Senate into 'chaos'. It said, 'As they made their submissions, the senators turned the House into a place of laughter as they would use examples to describe how LGBTIs engaged in sexual games, which they said was wrong and put them at risk of infections. The senators were also agitated by Ngwenya's submission that LGBTIs were a creation of God.'
It added, 'The statement turned the debate away from its initial focus on access to health, with Ngwenya's colleagues demanding to know the Bible verse which talked about sexual orientation as God's creation, while there was also a question on whether it was procedural to use the name of the Almighty when debating in Parliament. "I heard the mover saying that these people were created by God, which means that even their sexual orientation is God's creation, which according to me is a big mistake. Akasikhombise leli-verse (she must show us the verse)," submitted Senator Prince Fipha.'
There is a great deal of prejudice against LGBTI people in Swaziland. In May 2016, Rock of Hope, which campaigns for LGBTI equality in Swaziland, reported to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on Swaziland that laws, social stigma and prejudice prevented LGBTI organisations from operating freely.
The report, presented jointly with three South African-based organisations, stated, 'In Swaziland sexual health rights of LGBTI are not protected. There is inequality in the access to general health care, gender affirming health care as opposed to sex affirming health care and sexual reproductive health care and rights of these persons. HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care services continue to be hetero-normative in nature only providing for specific care for men born as male and women born as female, thereby leaving out trans men and women as an unprotected population which continues to render the state's efforts at addressing the spread and incidence of HIV within general society futile.'
The report added, 'LGBTIs are discriminated and condemned openly by society. This is manifest in negative statements uttered by influential people in society e.g., religious, traditional and political leaders. Traditionalists and conservative Christians view LGBTIs as against Swazi tradition and religion. There have been several incidents where traditionalists and religious leaders have issued negative statements about lesbians.
'Human rights abuses and violations against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex population continue to go undocumented, unreported, unprosecuted and not addressed.'
It added, 'There is no legislation recognizing LGBTIs or protecting the right to a non-heterosexual orientation and gender identity and as a result LGBTI cannot be open about their orientation or gender identity for fear of rejection and discrimination. For example, the Marriage Act, only recognizes a marriage or a union between a man and a woman. Because of the absence of a law allowing homosexuals to conclude neither marriage nor civil unions, same-sex partners cannot adopt children in Swaziland.'
The report made seven recommendations to the Swazi Government, including to review laws that undermine LGBTI persons' rights in particular and human rights in general especially as they conflict with the Constitution; and to ensure prosecution of State agents who commit human rights violations against LGBTI individuals and their organizations.