Growing up in South Africa, I never really realised, until much later in my life, just how powerful and resilient the LGBTQIA+ community of South Africa was and still is.
Being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in this time of my life, and living in South Africa has been amazing in the sense of being allowed to be who you are. Being allowed to get married and not just a civil partnership. Being allowed to take on homophobic people and companies that want to discriminate against you.
We live in Africa. Africa having some of the most intense and brutal anti LGBT laws in the world. For example, the death penalty is still very very real in countries like Mauritania, Sudan, Northern Nigeria, Southern Somalia for simply loving who you love.
But today in this article I want to focus a bit on my own country. South Africa having 11 Official languages, numerous unofficial ones. So many different tribes and cultures, and an abundance of Gay, Lesbian, Trans and Queer individuals from all walks of life.
Homosexuality remained illegal in South Africa until the court gave its ruling on 9 October 1998 that made it legal. The court ruled that its order should be retroactively applied to 27 April 1994. This means that when many of us where born, we were illegal. Scary thought indeed.
Before this court order the prescribed penalty for being homosexual was a fine of up to R4000 (Keep in mind for the time, R4000 was a lot of money) or two years imprisonment or even both.
Is it legal to change your gender? Yes it is legal, but there is some terms that requires surgery.
Is it legal for a member of the LGBTQIA+ to Adopt? Yes, adoption is legal and was made official through the consolidated children’s act of 2010.
Can gay people be discriminated against? No, it is illegal for people, businesses and companies to discriminate based on your sexual orientation or preference. This protection is for your personal, private and public life and also pulls through to any kind of discrimination for schemes such as housing or food schemes etc.
Can the LGBTQIA+ community join any armed forces or military in South Africa? Yes, there is currently no restrictions.
Is donating blood legal and allowed? Previously, men who had sex with men were seen as having a higher risk of being infected with HIV/Aids and were only allowed to donate blood if they were celibate for six months or longer, However, this 2006 policy was widely criticised as being discriminatory, especially as heterosexual people who engaged in risky or casual sex were allowed to donate blood. The HIV/Aids rate in South Africa is higher among heterosexuals. According to the SANBS, anybody who has a new sexual partner will not be allowed to donate blood for six months, and anyone who has multiple sexual partners will not be allowed to donate blood – regardless of their sexuality.
Can parents send their children to conversion therapy? No, this is strictly banned in South Africa. Any institutions that try to implement anything along the lines of conversion therapy should be reported and shut down.
Even though South Africa has rights for members of the LGBTQIA+ we still face many trials and tribulations in society. In recent times there has been a spike in hate crime and even murders against LGBTQIA+ individuals.
South Africa still hasn’t won LGBTQ+ equality, it may look that way on paper. But the journey is exactly that, a journey. We still have a while to go to full and real equality and acceptance.
We need to see more gay people represented in leadership positions in our communities, and in our government.
The life orientation curriculum in South African schools is robust and progressive on paper. But due to limited experience by educators and social stigma, many topics are not explored and explained as intended. Teaching children about the LGBTQIA+ community can assist in reducing bullying. It can help young people who are finding themselves to better understand what they are going through and also reduce the suicide rate of young gay individuals in SA.
Even though we are also seeing more gay people on tv in shows, we need to start breaking the stereotype of just one kind of a gay, the extra feminine cheesy one that the media loves to use. Or the extra butch lesbian figure. We are diverse, and it needs to be shown.
South Africa has lots of resources available and institutions that can assist if you would like to find out more.
Check out some of the following links: