Anti-gay verdict against S.African envoy to Uganda revoked

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A South African court Thursday revoked a judgement against the country's ambassador to Uganda who was found guilty of hate speech after a homophobic column he wrote in 2008.

Jon Qwelane penned a controversial column in the country's largest circulating tabloid, Sunday Sun, in which he compared homosexuality to bestiality.

"The court only ruled on the procedures around the handling of the case and not the content itself. So what this means is that the court ruled in his favour to hear the case again," said South African Human Right Commission (SAHRC) spokesman Vincent Moaga.

Qwelane was taken to court by the SAHRC to the Equality Court after he wrote the column headlined "Call me names, but gay is NOT okay...".

The column sparked a massive outcry in South Africa, which guarantees sexual rights in its constitution and is the only country in Africa to have legalised same-sex marriage.

In May the court ruled that the article with an accompanying cartoon had propagated hatred and harm against homosexuals who had suffered emotional pain and suffering.

The court also ordered Qwelane to pay 100,000 rand ($14,284, 10,000 euros) to the SAHRC and write an unconditional apology to gays and lesbians, to be published in the newspaper and its daily sister.

However last week Qwelane applied for a repeal of the judgement, arguing that he was not given an opportunity to defend himself against the allegations as he was out of the country.

Like many African countries, South Africa still battles homophobic attitudes, with horrific cases of sexual assaults against lesbians targeted for "corrective rape" by men.

Qwelane's subsequent appointment last year as high commissioner to Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by life imprisonment in some instances, drew controversy.

© 2011 AFP

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