Request by the Cape Town Transsexual/Transgender Support Group
to the South African Home Affairs Portfolio Committee
for an Extended Submission Period for the
Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Bill, 2003
Dear Mr Chauke
We, the Cape Town Transsexual/Transgender Support Group, hereby kindly request an extension of two (2) months - that is, until 5 November 2003 - to the period allowed for written submissions to the South African Home Affairs Portfolio Committee on the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Bill (hereafter referred to as the "Bill") introduced in the National Assembly on 31 July 2003. We request this extension for any and all written submissions by the group and/or its individual members. We also kindly request an opportunity for oral submissions to follow upon the written submissions, that is, after 5 November 2003.
We motivate as follows:
(1) News that the Bill has been introduced in Parliament and that the deadline for submissions has been set to 5 September 2003 only reached us on Tuesday, 26 August 2003. That left a mere ten (10) days for gathering the necessary information, doing the needed consultation and formulating submissions. Such a time frame is entirely inadequate in the light of the fact that we are the primary interested and affected parties in this matter and this Bill will impact on every aspect of our lives.
(2) It is not for want of trying to obtain information that we have remained uninformed about developments surrounding this Bill until such a late date. At least one of our members has, over the past three years, repeatedly tried to get an opportunity to comment on the draft legislation. Among others -
(a) In December 2000 he approached a lesbian and gay legal NGO for help in finding out about the latest developments concerning what used to be called - rather erroneously - The Realignment of Sexual Orientation Bill. All their attempts at the time to obtain information about this Bill failed.
(b) In July 2001 he obtained - through a contact in the Cape Town High Court - the South African Law Commission's March 1995 Report titled Investigation into the Legal Consequences of Sexual Realignment and Related Matters, which report included a previous version of the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Bill as then recommended by the Law Commission. He started doing his own research and began writing a critique of the Report and Bill, but he could not find out who was now responsible for the Bill, that is, who should be the recipients of such a critique.
(c) Throughout the previous three years he intermittently did Internet searches and visited the web sites of the SA Law Commission, the Commission on Gender Equality, the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project as well as other South African Gay and Lesbian web sites, and various SA legislation web sites. None of these yielded any information about developments relating to the Bill.
(d) In March 2003 he e-mailed the SA Law Commission to obtain information about legislation dealing with changes in the sex description of transsexual and intersexed individuals. He never received any response.
(e) In March 2003 he phoned the Cape Town branch of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) three times. He also e-mailed them a number of questions concerning the Bill and the process of commenting on the Bill. In this e-mail he also included a few basic preliminary comments on the Bill as contained in the March 1995 Report mentioned above. And he included a City Press article reporting on the Bill (this article was discovered by another member of the Transsexual/Transgender Support Group). However, he never received a written response or answers to his queries from CGE. During his telephone calls to the CGE he asked which other persons he could contact that were directly responsible for the Bill. The CGE said that he need not contact anybody else because they will take up the matter and get back to him. He was also promised a workshop on the Bill that the CGE would organise. To date the CGE has not come back to him.
(f) A month or more later he asked a contact at the Woodstock Parliamentary Office to follow the matter up with the Commission on Gender Equality on behalf of the Transsexual/Transgender Support Group. This person was told that Group members could attend some of the Portfolio Committee's meetings on the Bill and that details of these meetings would be forthcoming. To date no such details have been received.
In the light of (2) (a) to (e) alone we are justified in concluding that to date the public participation process with regard to this Bill has failed us - the very people it was supposed to accommodate. Despite our best attempts to obtain an opportunity to participate in the formulation of this Bill at an earlier stage, we have been effectively excluded.
(3) Further evidence that the public participation process with respect to this Bill has failed transsexual/transgender people can be found by merely looking at the list of persons and bodies who commented on the original Working Paper and Bill (see the March 1995 Report, Annexure B and the "Memorandum on the Objects of the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Bill, 2003", Section 2 on Consultation.) Not a single transsexual, transgender or intersexed organisation or group is listed.
(4) The research conducted by the late Professor Jerold Taitz for the SA Law Commission and included in the March 1995 Report was both unethical and academically of an inferior quality. Not only did he rely on a range of sexist stereotypes and unfounded assumptions, but his research was also extremely biased, pathologising, homophobic and discriminatory in several other respects. It was outdated even at the time of writing - the late 1980s or early 1990s presumably. The most recent journal article about transsexual issues cited in his Bibliography is one of his own articles (1986). Most of the literature Prof. Taitz consulted was written in the 1970s or earlier. Various developments from the early 1990s onwards - including the emergence of an independent and critical international transsexual/transgender community - radically call into question his medical, social and psychological claims about our identities and wishes.
(5) Because Prof. Taitz's research informed the Law Commission's formulation of the Bill, the latter could not but err in the choice of terminology and the stipulation of requirements. There are many outstanding international transsexual/transgender organisations and legal minds that could have been easily tracked and consulted if as little as a simple Internet search had been done on the matter. In fact, a transsexual/transgender person with legal expertise should have done the study. Because this was not the case we will now have to do most of this research at very short notice, under immense pressure and with limited resources at our disposal. Given this situation a deadline extension of two months is little to ask.
In conclusion: The legislation dealing with the alteration of sex description and sexual status has been pending since 1995. We take exception at the statement recorded in the minutes of the Portfolio Committee's meeting on 5 August 2003 to the effect that "the legislation was not urgent". However, after waiting for so many years for legal recognition of our identities we have a right to expect that the legislation to be enacted will reflect our input and participation in the legislative process, that it will respect our bodies and identities, and that it will have our well-being at heart.
Legal recognition of our identities is a basic right and need that affects every aspect of our lives - including employment, physical safety, health, use of public amenities, relationships, social interaction, gender expression, self-worth, emotional well-being and travel. Depending on which interpretation of it is favoured, the Bill in its current form might deny most transsexual/transgender people in South Africa the basic legal recognition that the majority of people take for granted in their day-to-day lives.
We therefore ask the Portfolio Committee to give us a fair opportunity to present it with the realities of our lives and our legal requirements by granting us the extensions for written and oral submissions as outlined above.
The Cape Town Transsexual/Transgender Support Group