The University of Johannesburg’s Institutional Office for HIV and AIDS (IOHA) and partners hosted their second annual two-day virtual UJ LGBTIQ+ Campus Conference on Thursday, 30 June 2022 and Friday 1 July 2022. Under the theme – “When Inclusion becomes conditional: Institutions of Religion v/s Homosexuality” – the full day conference explored the challenges and struggles experienced by the community throughout the continent.The conference was hosted in association with UJ Student Affairs, Campus Health, Gala, Pride Afrique, Akeso, Quadcare, University of the Free State, Higher Health SA, UJ Debating Team, Wits Reproductive Health and more. The purpose of the conference was to explore the pretext of responses to religious denominations and homosexuality across time and space within the African contexts, to critically address the current status quo that is prevalent across religious doctrines based on attitudes towards people with diverse sexual identities, orientations and expressions and to extend the UJ Safe Zone Program through the African diaspora through positive collaboration and comradeship.
Department of Educational Psychology Professor Anthony Brown who teaches Inclusive Education and Life Orientation broke down the themes of the conference. “Inclusivity is an imperative term from South Africa as we come from a repressive past. Inclusion is a practical space, not just a feeling or value but an experience. He added that curriculums need to become more inclusive as there was a gap between rhetoric and practice. Prof Brown also reflected on religion and its interpretations.
Keynote speaker, Clinical psychologist Anele Siswana expressed that queerness destabilises the fundmental ideas around hetrenormativity and elaborated on the topics of religion, curriculum and inclusivity. “Issues of religion and theology around sexual orientation and biblical inerpretations are not merely academic but touch us all in a deeply personal way. Negative and rejecting attitudes towards the queer community can have no place in our religious spaces, congregations and community.” The conference also unpacked the institution of religion vs homosexuality in the African continent and how society influences religion.
Day two of the conference highlighted health, wellness and mental support and ended the conference with a Pride Festival walk and performances at the UJ Rag Farm.
IOHA HOD Ms Rainny Nkhatho said it was important for people to show understanding to one another. “We all believe in some deity because of our need for connection to some higher being. The same goes for the LGBTI+ Community. God is love, and His love is unconditional and non-discriminative. Let there be love and light amongst us all,” she said.