Wits lecturer takes neighbour to Equality Court over LGBTI slur


hate_speechA senior lecturer at Wits is suing his neighbour for allegedly making anti-LGBTI slurs against him.

Tim Trengove Jones, an English literature lecturer and cultural commentator, said that the incident took place on 1 July, at his Killarney apartment complex.

The neighbour objected to work being done to protect the property from roosting pigeons and allegedly blocked a contractor from completing the work outside her apartment.

Jones, who is a trustee of the sectional title complex, told Mambaonline that he heard the woman screaming and swearing and went to investigate. He said that he tried to reason with her but that she verbally attacked him.

After finally convincing her to stand aside two hours later, Jones claims that, as he and other trustees were watching the contractor work, the woman continued to verbally abuse him.

He alleges: “She finally said to me, ‘You are a fucking old queen.’ So I said to her, ‘Am I an old queen?’ To which she responded, “Yes, don’t you know what you are? It’s a surprise to me that anyone sees anything in you. You fucking old queen, you fucking piece of shit!'”

Jones has taken the woman to the Equality Court on the basis that she violated both Section Nine of the Constitution and the Equality Act, and that her comments amount to hate speech.

Jones explained that he was motivated to pursue legal action against the woman for two reasons: “There’s a sense of personal injury, but there’s also the larger sense of being a member of an LGBTIQ community that is sustainedly subjected to various forms of derogation; whether it’s physical assault, whether it’s corrective rape, whether it’s verbal abuse and hate speech…”

Jones said that, although he doesn’t find it pleasant, he is fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to take the matter further.

“We are surrounded by countries in Africa where LGBTIQ people are extremely vulnerable… and this sort of articulation and the belief that you can make this kind of articulation is part of the problem…”

According to Jones, attempts to settle the matter have failed. He is asking the court for R40,000 in compensation and an apology. The money, should it be awarded, would go to the gender equality NGO, Sonke Gender Justice.

While cases of discriminatory verbal abuse can currently be pursued in the Equality Court, a new Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill was released for public comment last month. If passed, it would make hate speech a criminal offence, with a fine or imprisonment for up to three years for a first offender.

To read the draft Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, click here. (Public comments can be submitted until 31 January 2017.)

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