A settlement agreement has been signed between the South African Human Rights Council (SAHRC) and author, Gretha Wiid. The agreement, which was signed at the SAHRC’s Johannesburg offices yesterday, concludes the SAHRC’s investigation into Wiid’s conduct following it receiving 77 complaints regarding the content of Wiid’s books, Lyfslim vir Seuns and Lyfslim vir Meisies.
Complainants felt that certain passages in the books “constituted unfair discrimination that violates the rights and dignity of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual (sic), queer and intersex community, and that it amounts to hate speech”.
Written from a Christian perspective, the books — aimed at the adolescent and young teenager market — were originally printed in 2009 and repeatedly republished, most recently in 2017.
According to the signed conciliation agreement, published on the SAHRC’s website, one of the passages which led to the complaints reads: “Some people say that … people are born gay. This is something I do not agree with. I believe with my whole heart that God created men and women to love persons of the opposite sex.”
Another reads: “Whatever the reasons for homosexuality (whether you agree with my reasons or not!), it remains sorrowful. Such people can never have children in the normal way… It is sorrowful because God says that is is a sin to have sex with someone who is of the same sex.”
In addition to the books’ content, a statement issued by the SAHRC notes that “between 1996 and 2011, Wiid [also] gave extensive presentations and workshops at schools across Gauteng on the subject of sexual development and sex education”.
“A number of complaints also challenged the tone and content of the workshops, complaining that [Wiid] engaged in speech that violated the equality and dignity rights of SOGIE [sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression] persons, and the Constitutional rights and best interests of the children to whom the workshops were addressed,” the statement read.
The settlement agreement was entered into as Wiid and the commission “agreed that it is in the interests of the parties, and society at large, that the matter be resolved as expeditiously and amicably as possible”.
The complaints against Wiid were resolved through a process of conciliation, with the commission finding that Wiid’s “rights to freedom of religion and expression must be balanced against the dignity and equality rights of the LGBTQI community and of the children to whom the publication and the workshops are disseminated”.
Wiid apologised “to those persons who were … affected”, stating that she “acknowledges that, although unintended, the publication and workshops caused the complainants and certain members of the LGBTQI community to feel discriminated against, demeaned, degraded, hurt and/or harmed”.
As part of the agreement, Wiid undertook to have future editions of the books amended to be more LGBTQI-friendly.
Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian