Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s daughter, Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu-Van Furth, on Tuesday praised South Africa’s human right laws and the country’s constitutional democracy but said there was still a lot to be done as these were contested terrain in the whole world.
Tutu-Van Furth was speaking during the opening of the 39th International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) congress held in Johannesburg on Tuesday, which will end over the weekend.
The FIDH is an international human rights NGO federating 178 organisations who defend all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights from 120 countries.
Last year, Tutu-Van Furth was forced to give up practising as a minister following her same-sex marriage to Marceline van Furth, as the Anglican Church of South Africa does not recognise same-sex unions despite being accepting of LGBTI individuals.
“South Africa is, in many ways, a beacon of human rights and democracy on the continent. However, human rights and democcracy are not an event. They are a process that has to be lived, created and recreated,” Tutu-Van Furth said.
“And so in South Africa we have rights that are enshrined in our constitution and documented in our laws, but that are not a lived experience of the majority of people in the country.”
Tutu-Van Furth said though she was not licensed any more to officiate any matters of the church, that would not change the person she was nor would it revoke her ordination.
She said, as a couple, they were not being discriminated against but instead were enjoying support from family members, especially her parents, friends and colleagues.
“For me the experience is that I have to address human rights from a dignity concern about which the church has refused to engage or largely remained silent,” Tutu-Van Furth said.
Among the guests at the opening of the FIDH congress were former Chief Justice Digkang Moseneke, activists and lawyers, including South African human rights lawyer George Bizos.
Zimbabwe human rights activist and director of Peace Project, Jestina Mukoko, highlighted the plight of human rights activists in the neighbouring country, saying they were being criminalised.
Mukoko said human rights defenders in Zimbabwe had to provide medical assistance as well as legal advice for the affected while operating on a shoestring budget.
“This is all taking place where the constitution allows citizens to demonstrate and petition, and where the same police are abrogating their function as spelled out by the constitution where they are supposed to protect the lives of people and maintain law and order,” Mukoko said.
“You could be brutalised or wrongfully arrested or in fact actually disappear.”
The FIDH2016 continues at Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, until Saturday.
– African News Agency (ANA)