The international campaign for equal rights for homosexuals and other sexual minorities took a step forward on 14 November when South Africa became the first country in Africa, and the fifth in the world, to legalize same-sex marriage. The new law, adopted by a — 41 vote, was welcomed by gay and lesbian activists in South Africa and around the world as a significant advance for equal rights. But it is not a trend. Conservative religious and political leaders in many countries still strongly oppose equal rights for homosexuals, including same-sex marriage. The week before the South African move, same-sex marriages were banned in eight US states, although similar proposals were defeated in a dozen others. Sex between men in Nigeria, defined as sodomy, was already punishable by up to 14 years in prison, reports the non-governmental International Lesbian and Gay Association ILGA. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour noted in August that worldwide, more than 80 countries criminalize consensual sexual relations between persons of the same sex — including seven in which the punishment can be death. In Africa, according to a study by the ILGA, homosexuality was illegal in 29 countries and enjoyed legal protection in just Although sexual minorities are gradually winning recognition and protection of their rights under the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties, they remain at great risk of official harassment, arbitrary detention, public stigmatization, extortion and even assault because of their sexual orientation.
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The research reported here is part of a larger study which, to date, is the first and only in-depth study that focuses on the lives of Black South African lesbians. The study was located within a feminist social constructionist paradigm. The aim of the research was to explore the positions from which Black lesbians speak, as well as to explore how their discourse s replicate, challenge and contradict the dominant societal discourses on what it means to be Black and lesbian within South African society. The data was collected by means of nine 9 individual interviews and ten 10 focus groups. The total number of women in the study was sixty-three. The data was analysed using discourse analysis. A range of discourses emerged which illustrates how they both replicate and challenge traditional roles and discourses. The discourses explored in this article relate to their views on motherhood and women's roles. Although certain of their "choices" may be interpreted as not falling within a feminist paradigm in terms of western feminism s , this could be viewed as feminist and strategic given the current reality in which they live.
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Black lesbians in South Africa endure ridicule and abuse in schools, workplaces and churches, sometimes being accused of witchcraft, a Human Rights Watch HRW investigation has found. The research, We'll Show You You're a Woman , was based on interviews with lesbians, bisexual women and transgender men over two years in the impoverished townships where most South Africans live. Graeme Reid, director of HRW's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights programme, said: "It's a grim picture. It's a picture of fear and intimidation. A segment of South African society lives in terror and feels it has no one to turn to, including the police. Same-sex marriage is legal in South Africa , and the country has some of the most liberal laws on sexual orientation on the continent. But cultural attitudes do not always match the constitution, approved in One woman told HRW of a series of rapes by her cousin, her coach and her pastor. Another said a female cousin spiked her drink so that the cousin's boyfriend could rape her.
In the antiseptic setting of a modern courthouse in a town near Johannesburg, the life and death of a young sports star is being dissected. She was no ordinary young woman. An outstanding footballer, she had captained her country and was hoping to be the first female to referee at a World Cup. But her brutal death, and the apparent motive for it, is all too ordinary here. For Eudy Simelane was a lesbian, and this, say campaigners, was why she was raped and savagely murdered. This is the land of "corrective rape". Despite South Africa having one of the most enlightened constitutions in the world, traditional views about sexuality still run deep. In many quarters, especially male ones, lesbians are resented, perhaps even feared.