South Africa: Court Orders Church to Pay Transgender Woman R600,000 in Damages

International Pentecost Holiness Church members undressed Karabo Ndlovu to conduct a gender test

The Equality Court has awarded a transgender woman R600,000 in damages.

Karabo Ndlovu was made to undress in a public toilet so that members of the International Pentecost Holiness Church could examine her genitals.

The church was ordered to pay her legal costs and its most senior member was ordered to apologise to her in person.

A transgender woman who was subjected to a humiliating genital test by members of her church to check whether she was “a real woman” has been awarded R600,000 in damages by the Equality Court.

Karabo Ndlovu lodged a complaint against the International Pentecost Holiness Church, claiming its elders had forced her to undress in a public toilet and conducted a physical examination because the priest did not believe she was female.

Ga Rankuwa Equality Court Magistrate Ryan van Rooyen also ordered the church to pay Ndlovu’s legal costs and to tender an unconditional apology “in writing and verbal” to be given to Ndlovu personally by the most senior person in the church hierarchy before the end of October.

Ndlovu, in her complaint, said she had been a member of the Tweefontein G congregation since 2013, a year after she had gender reassignment surgery.

After she became engaged, she was summoned to the church’s Zuurbekom branch in 2015, where she was told by elders that they wanted to check her sex.

After this incident, her fiancé broke off their relationship.

The Church did not file any opposing papers in court and the matter was adjourned on two occasions because no one appeared on its behalf.

Finally, in December 2020, Magistrate Van Rooyen ruled that “merit and inequality in the form of gross discrimination is proven on the papers”.