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South Africa Asked Teachers for a List of LGBTQ Students

South Africa

The Eastern Cape Provincial Education Department's request for a list of students who identify as LGBTQ has been viewed as discriminatory. 

An email sent by the Eastern Cape Provincial Education Department's Special Programmes Unit was sent last week calling for a list of students who are "LGBTI" (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and intersex) to be sent back to the department's head office before a workshop that is being held Tuesday has been retracted and cited as not sent by the office, reports City Press.

"The SPU head office will be conducting a workshop to raise awareness on the rights of the LGBTI community and to ensure that their lives, morals, and integrity are respected, on October 30 at Mpekweni Beach Resort," states the email, obtained by the Press. "You are therefore kindly requested to forward names of learners in your school that belongs to this community by end of business today [October 16]. This will allow the district office to have a database of these learners and 10 of these learners will be attending the scheduled workshop."

After the email was questioned by Edmund van Vuuren, the spokesperson for the DA provincial education, citing fear of discrimination, it was retracted the day after and it was stated by the SPU that LGBTQ students would no longer be a part of the workshop due to exams, according to the Press.

"The identification of learners belonging to the LGBTI [community] is discriminatory, unconstitutional and may lead to verbal, mental and even physical abuse against this group of learners by those who do not take kindly to their affiliation or allegiance." Van Vuuren wrote in an email to the head of the SPU office.

Van Vuuren said that the database would have been reckless and unconstitutional, possibly even turning discriminatory.

"[It is] an infringement on the privacy of the lifestyles of these learners and, in the wrong hands, could very easily result in physical harm." Van Vuuren said. "While South Africa has come a long way with LGBTI rights, more needs to be done to create safe and non-discriminatory environments at work and at school."

Van Vuuren went on to say, "In a climate where 'corrective rape' and assault based on sexual preference are commonplace, we cannot afford to expose members of this community to further risk and discrimination." and that if the workshop would have been used for advocacy it would not be an issue, according to the Press.

Since the controversy, the education department has distanced itself from the email and has begun investigating its origin with department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima, who said that there had been no plan for the collection of names of LBGTQ students.

"The department, therefore, distances itself from both the content and the form of this email." Mtima. "The department has thus started an internal investigation and is working hard to get the source of this email, which distorted the activities and objectives of the department's programmes."

Mtima maintains his stance that there was no plan to create the database.

"There is no activity or instruction to district coordinators to create a database for the LGBTI group. The only activity that talks to the LGBTI group is the awareness workshop scheduled for October 30," Mtima states to the Press. "The alleged email purporting to be coming from the head office has not been sanctioned by those concerned and the SPU office."

Mtima told the Press that the LGBTQ awareness workshop was to educate and advocate people about the challenges that LGBTQ students face including homophobia, transphobia, bullying in schools, and hate crimes.

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