LGBTI and transgender rights groups are elated that Nadia Swanepoel’s name and gender identity have been changed in the population register.
The hunger-striking transgender woman finally received a correct temporary ID on 13 October at Home Affairs and has applied for a new ID and passport.
The Department of Home Affairs has also amended her marital status from civil union to a heterosexual identified marriage according to the Marriage Act.
Nadia from Florida, Johannesburg, embarked on a food and liquid hunger strike last week to protest the department’s apparent refusal to change her name and gender for more than three years.
Nadia’s act of desperation came as a result of systematic discrimination and prejudice she experienced at Home Affairs, said the groups. Her situation is one that is not unique but is part of an ongoing battle to get the department to create systems which will standardise the requirements and time frames of Act 49 applications such as Nadia’s.
Although the structural problems which gave rise to Nadia’s desperation have not been resolved, the groups expressed hope that her case has made the department realise that it cannot continue in the same manner any longer.
Concerted efforts need to be implemented from the department’s side to ensure that applications made under the Alteration of Sex Description Act and Sex Status Act 49 of 2003 are processed timeously. The current arbitrary interpretation, requiring genital surgery as a minimum, needs to be rectified with immediate effect.
The groups called on the Department of Home Affairs to recognise that as a state organ it is entrusted with upholding the values and rights in the Constitution of South Africa. The department must respect the rights of the transgender community to dignity, quality and freedom of expression, they said.
Nadia relinquished her right to privacy and disclosed her transgender status to South Africa and the world, an act that could lead to potential violence. She gave up that right in the hope that the department would recognise her and other transgender people’s civil right to an appropriate form of identification.
“Over the past years TIA (Transgender and Intersex Africa), S.H.E (Social, Health and Empowerment Feminist Collective of transgender and Intersex Women of Africa) and Iranti-org have documented many human rights violations committed by the Department of Home Affairs. We demand for this to come to an end”, said Leigh Ann van der Merwe, Director of SHE.
The groups thanked Nadia for her bravery and courage, saying that her actions have made it possible for the concerns of transgender persons to be made public and for people to recognise the horrors of being denied the right to exist as a South African citizen.