LGBTQIA+ Policy Inequality

South Africa was the first country to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation: here’s why that matters

Today The Tempest is celebrating Spirit Day in support of queer youth against bullying!

In 1996, South Africa became the first country in the world to constitutionally outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The post-apartheid constitution enshrined a number of progressive anti-discrimination laws, aimed at ensuring equality and freedom for all citizens.  

The nation continued on this progressive trajectory, becoming the fifth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, in 2006. Since then, a host of LGBTQ+ rights have been granted, including equitable policies on issues such as adoption and parental leave.

Despite this, anti-LGBT+ sentiments are still exceedingly common. Religion features heavily in our society; it’s not unusual for people to use the excuse of “that’s not what god intended” as a defense for their bigotry. I remember teachers in school promoting these notions by reminding us that it was, “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” This tactical rhetoric is particularly problematic because rhymes are intended to stick, especially in the minds of impressionable children. 

The worst thing about these types of statements is that they aren’t overt, so nobody can be called out for using discriminatory language. It’s the loophole of all bigots’ dreams – and whoever wrote Facebook’s community standards, apparently.

Fortunately, societal disapproval has failed to influence legislation. In 2009, parliament rejected an application filed by the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, calling for LGBTQ+ rights to be removed from the Constitution. 

Given the historical injustice of apartheid, the South African constitution emphatically emphasizes respect of cultural and religious traditions and values. Although unquestionably necessary, this has muddied the grounds on which the protection of LGBTQ+ rights have been opposed. 

As such, the government reformed policy to prevent these defenses of discrimination. In 2018, a previous law which allowed for a marriage officer to object to performing a union on the grounds of conscience, religion and belief, was repealed. 

Although progress towards the recognition of the LGBTQ+ community has been frustratingly incremental, all moves towards inclusivity deserve to be celebrated. If there are no official measures to safeguard rights, the possibilities for discrimination are endless. 

Despite significant pressure, the government has continually defied public opinion in order to maintain its comprehensive anti-discrimination laws. This is testament to the country’s democratic principle that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”

However, this principled approach of freedom and equity has largely failed to translate into society.

While on paper South Africa may appear to be the pinnacle of inclusivity, the reality is decidedly different. LGBTQ+ hate crimes routinely fail to garner the attention or outrage afforded to other instances of discrimination and the laws meant to protect the community often fail to be enforced. 

Strong heternormative ideals of familial structure and gender roles continue to hinder public acceptance of queer identity, particularly in Black communities. Black LGBTQ+ people are frequently alienated and excluded, with many being subjected to violent retaliation.

Because LGBTQ+ rights were constitutionalized on the grounds of equality, rather than as a result of public consensus or promotion, the queer community in South Africa continues to be marginalized.

This prevalence of discrimination and hate-crimes serves to highlight the fact that legal protections are only effective if enforced. Such enforcement, however, also begs the question of whether or not certain demographics might be targeted above others. 

Nevertheless, LGBTQ+ rights have been hard-won; the fact that they are constitutionally enshrined is a BIG DEAL. 

In a time where LGBTQ+ rights are being repealed in countries claiming to be democratic, the significance of protective law is evident. Without official recognition, the door is wide open for abuse without consequence. 

It’s undeniable that South Africa still has a lot of work to do. However, the foundations for future progress have already been laid. The current anti-discrimination laws make it clear that anti-queer perspectives stand in opposition to the fundamental principles of our democracy.  

The Constitution advocates for equality and freedom, above all else. No citizen is legally allowed to discriminate against any person on the basis of their sexual orientation. And that really does matter. 

This Spirit Day, I’m focusing on the wins, however small they may seem.


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Politics The World Policy

Here’s what you need to know about your rights as a DACA recipient

The Trump Administration recently announced that it will terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects an upward of 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors from deportation.

Effective immediately, no new DACA applications will be processed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). But how the administration will end the program on a large scale remains unclear.

Although the fate of almost a million DACA recipients remains dire, rest assured that whether you’re a DACA recipient or not, you still have unalienable rights and protections under the U.S. constitution.

Here’s what you need to know about DACA provisions and your rights as a recipient in this disorienting time:

1. You can still apply to renew your DACA or work permit by October 5, 2017.

Any current DACA and work permits will remain valid until their expiration dates, but if your work permit or DACA is set to expire by March 5, 2018, you must apply for a two-year renewal by October 5, 2017, according to Here To Stay.

Any permits that expire after March 5, 2018 without an application for renewal before October 5 will not be renewed.

If your work permit expiration date is approaching, your employer may request for an updated permit but cannot terminate you, place you on leave, or change your work status until after it expires, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

2. Your Social Security Number (SSN) is valid for life.

Even if your work permit or DACA approval expires, your Social Security Number (SSN) will always be valid. An SSN is important for accessing things like education, housing and banking, so be sure to to apply for a SSN while your DACA status and work permits are still valid.

3. If approached by ICE or law enforcement, you have the right not to speak.

If stopped by ICE agents or law enforcement, you have the right not to speak to anyone or answer any questions under the fifth amendment.

If ICE approaches you at your home, they must have a signed warrant by a judge in order to enter. If they cannot present you with a valid warrant (it must have the correct name and address on it), then you are not obligated to let them in.

4. You have the right to legal counsel if detained.

You can simply state, “I need to speak to my attorney,” according to the National Immigration Law Center.

No one can force you to sign anything either without your attorney present, and you can refuse to do so until you get access to legal counsel.

5. Carry a “Know Your Rights” card with you.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center provides a “red card”, or a “Know Your Rights” card, for undocumented folks to assert their rights when facing ICE agents or law enforcement. The card says that you wish to remain silent and speak to a lawyer.

Make sure to carry a card like this with you at all times in case you are stopped by law enforcement. You can download and print a copy of the ILRC’s card here.

Policy Inequality

This unprecedented anti-immigration bill will separate families and hurt the economy

With each passing day of the Trump Administration, immigrants and aspiring green card holders are holding their breath as the fate of the U.S. immigration system continues to stand on shaky ground. With the recent introduction of an unprecedented anti-immigrant proposal on the Senate floor, immigration policy in the U.S. is looking poised to be turned upside down.

Recently Donald Trump announced his support of the RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) Act, a conservative bill that is aiming to slash legal immigration to the U.S. in half by 2027.

We’re breaking down the unprecedented bill to explore what the act entails, how this proposed system will function, and who it will affect.

What exactly is the RAISE Act?

This proposal has been introduced to the U.S. Senate by conservative Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK) and David Perdue (R-GA). The bill would cut legal immigration to the United States in half, making the system significantly more selective by qualifying higher skill, education, and income levels.

The legislation would also cut off refugee admissions at 50,000 per year, and it would altogether eliminate the international visa lottery.

The goal of the bill is to significantly decrease the influx of legal immigrants to the United States and increase the ratio of immigrants with high income and desirable skills according to lawmakers. The Senators purport that this bill will stimulate the economy and create more job opportunities for Americans.

How will the proposed immigration system work?

Under the RAISE Act, green card applicants will be evaluated by an immigration points system. Applicants would need at least 30 points to be eligible to apply for a visa, which would take into consideration each applicant’s age, education level, English-language skills, job offer salary and investments. The system would also put an emphasis on special accolades such an Olympic Medal or Nobel Peace Prize.

TIME recently created an interactive quiz in which users could see if they would be able eligible to immigrate to the United States under RAISE Act qualifications, and surprise: It’s remarkably hard to reach the 30 point minimum.

The conservative lawmakers behind the bill seem to favor applicants from ages 26-30 who have a doctorate degree, are fluent English speakers, have a starting salary of almost $160,000, or are looking to invest about $1.8 million for a new commercial enterprise in the U.S. Those most disadvantaged are children, the elderly, non-English speakers and those with lower education or salary levels.

Who and what will it affect?

The bill, if passed, will ultimately amend the Immigration and Nationality Act, which in 1965 abolished immigration quotas based on nationality. Also called the Hart-Celler Act, the measure dramatically changed the racial makeup of the United States.The act not only made the nation not only more diverse, but it also provided the U.S. with immigrant labor that filled in the gaps of the American workforce.

The RAISE Act opts for a merit-based system, neglecting any prior immigration goals of reuniting families in the United States. Enacting this bill will make it significantly harder for Asians, Africans, Latin Americans and Middle Easterners to come to the U.S. legally, and will keep immigrant families separated.

Time and time again has immigration also proven to be good for the American economy. The U.S. economy gravely depends on immigrant labor for economic growth, especially since Baby Boomers are aging. There are also 5.7 million job openings in the U.S. today, countering conservative sentiment that jobs are few and far between, and that immigrants are “stealing” American jobs.

In fact, restricting immigration will only lead the nation to low rates of economic growth, according to Global Economist Bernard Baumohl in a Washington Post article.

If immigration doesn’t actually hurt the economy like conservative lawmakers purport, what is the RAISE Act other than a guise to enforce nativism and xenophobia? Enacting this bill could potentially reverse these demographic changes, tear families apart and potentially destroy the fabrics of American society.


Senior News & Society Editor Asma Elgamal launches Policy channel to face the new political era

2016 was a tough year. In looking at the global political landscape, 2016 presented us with events like Brexit and the Trump administration, propelling hate groups into mainstream platforms and frankly terrifying the hell out of some of us.

[bctt tweet=”In times like these, the most powerful thing we can do is equip ourselves with knowledge.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Social activism hit a new high, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat – all became tools to resist and to make our voices heard. But even that sometimes, isn’t enough. As horrific as it is, a lot of the awful things that have been happening are completely legal. It’s like Hydra has infiltrated the highest levels and we are playing a very tricky game of dismantling policies while pretending that evil isn’t currently reigning over us.

“In times like these, the most powerful thing we can do is equip ourselves with knowledge,” Elgamal noted.

Like most things governmental, policies are shrouded in technical language, used to make things complex and drawn out. Some policies and legislation are incredibly long and honestly, that kind of information is not appealing to read. Although it’s super important to know what laws govern us, who really has the time to go through all these new documents to ascertain what is going on?

It’s hard to speak out against something that we don’t really understand.

So to help us deal with the aftermath, Asma Elgamal, our Senior News & Society Editor at The Tempest decided to approach things in a different way, launching the Policy channel at The Tempest.

Elgamal said, “The sole purpose of this vertical is to target and help decipher laws and policies so that everyone knows exactly what is going on. The aim of this is so that it is easier to understand which policies affect you and what they set out to do. In turn, preparing us for doing whatever is necessary to combat these policies.” Read more about The Tempest’s Policy vertical here.