Sadly, a country governed by tolerant and progressive laws doesn’t always translate to a liberal society. This is evident in the discrimination of the LGBTIQ community that still occurs in South Africa, despite a section of the constitution that guarantees the right to gender equality and sexual orientation.
A dazzling piece of theatre, devised and directed by Phyllis Klotz, Chapter 2 Section 9 addresses the pressures and daily struggles that lesbian women face in the so-called ‘new South Africa’. The play highlights the failures of the law and justice system, while paying a tribute to corrective rape survivors and those who lost their lives due to hate crimes.
Aptly titled after a section of the constitution that is supposedly a victory for LGBTIQ, this production is based on interviews with more than 40 lesbian women, their families and police officers around the issues of hate crime, coming out, religion and culture. When four strikingly talented actresses reiterate these stories in a brightly lit set lined with images of deceased hate crime victims, the result is an emotional 60 minutes that strips sexual orientation off its many layers of complication. It becomes clear why this play scooped an Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival 2016.
Ayanda Rose Fali, Khanyisa Nanase, Tsholofelo Ross and Ayanda Sibisi take turns to eloquently tell the stories of these women to the audience. Each of them assumes multiple characters, differentiated by quick minor costumes changes, posture and convincing accents. Now and again, they break into a capella songs, which add an even more somber effect to the play. Superb original music performed by composer and musician Isaac Molelekoa comes somewhat as a soothing factor in between and, at times, against the heart wrenching monologues.
The monologues, with a dash of humour, give the audience an overwhelming introduction into the unsafe and oppressed lives of South African lesbians. We often hear of the murders and rape of queer women from news reports and while that might be a clear indication of a hate towards them, we have no idea of other numerous pains that the society inflicts into the lives of these women. Chapter 2, Section 9 brings to the surface the frustration of having to live a life that is rejected by culture and religion and prone to violence or even death, despite its legal recognition – an everyday battle for lesbians.
The play takes the audience through stories of a few young woman: one whose child is a result of gang rape, a mother who is struggling to come into terms with her daughter’s sexual orientation, and a resentful girl whose best friend tragically dies in an incident of hate crime.
Klotz has touched on an issue that is, in most times, swept under the carpet by many women’s rights activists. With Human Rights Day around the corner, she couldn’t have chosen a better moment.
Chapter 2, Section 9 runs at Baxter Theatre until 11 March 2017.