South Africans still not OK with same-sex relationships

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82% of the adult population of South Africa think that sex between two men or two women could be considered ‘always wrong,’ according to the latest South African Social Attitudes Survey.

Just 8% thought it was never wrong.

“Gay and lesbian identities continue to be characterised as ‘un-African’,” according to the report into the survey from the Human Sciences Research Council.

Figures for the last five years show a consistent 80% opposition to gay people.

“The assertion of ‘un-Africanness’ conceals a moral and cultural view that African societies are somehow unique and therefore immune to what is perceived to be a Western and European import.”

“The systematic accusations by several African leaders over the years have fuelled these perceptions and South Africans are likewise divided in their tolerance of same-sex issues.

“As the incidences of hate crimes against black lesbians and gay-bashing attest, the victory of constitutional equality clearly has not guaranteed the end to social discrimination.”

South Africa is the only African nation to have legalised same-sex marriage and the state’s Constitution provides protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

“Prejudiced views on same-sex relations appear closely related to education, with more highly educated people being more tolerant,” according to the report.

“Those who matriculated or possess a tertiary qualification demonstrate more liberal views, especially compared to citizens that either have no formal schooling or only a primary level education.

“However, even among tertiary educated adults, 76% on average over the period consider homosexuality to be always wrong, with the lowest reported figure for this group being 72% in 2003.

“Noteworthy are the signs of improvement since 2005 among those with either a grade 8 to 11 education or having matriculated.

“This development will need to be monitored to determine whether the trend persists.

“In the four years between 2003 and 2006, 16 to 24 year olds were significantly less likely to voice their disapproval than middle aged and older groups.

“While there are both upward and downward swings within age groups over this interval, there are indications that attitudes began softening after 2005, especially among those older than 24 years.

“For 16 to 24 year olds, the level of disapproval has remained at a relatively constant level, except for a short-lived improvement in 2006.

“Between 2006 and 2007, there appears to have been a convergence in attitude among the three groups younger than 50 years, to the extent that they no longer differ significantly.”

Report authors Benjamin Roberts, a Research Specialist in the Child, Youth, Family and Social Development  research programme and Professor Vasu Reddy, a Chief Research Specialist in the Gender and Development Unit, concluded:

“Despite guaranteed constitutional freedoms, the results suggest that South African society is still largely prejudiced rather than accepting of same-sex relations.

“Ironically the negative attitudes confirm that despite policy shifts and legal reform within a Bill of Rights culture, cultural prejudice remains strong.

“This also indicates that while a rights-based model governs citizenship claims in the country, attitudinal changes do not necessarily correlate with rights.

“Additionally, the results suggest that the negative attitude and reluctance to ‘accept’ homosexuality could also be linked to levels of education and awareness of people, rural-urban divide, age, culture, and religion.

“Tolerance and positive attitudes may have something to do with the recognition of difference, equality and dignity which are values that arise out of a slow process of negotiation.

“Understandably apartheid had a strong psychological basis to indoctrination, and perhaps acceptance of ‘homosexuality’ has less to do with a legal framework, and more to do with consciousness-raising and openness to differences in South African society.

“Finally, it would seem that rights do not necessarily result in justice. This tension seems to exist if we consider, for example, recent hate crimes of lesbians in Cape Town, Ladysmith and Soweto.

“Perhaps the empirical data suggests that much work remains at the level of public education around diversity (which will include understanding same-sex issues).

“This task may not be the responsibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered organisations, but rather the responsibility of all South Africans, perhaps to be included in life orientation curricula schooling.”

South Africa has been rocked by the murders of several prominent lesbian activists.

Football midfielder Eudy Simelane was gang-raped and murdered in April.

She had played for the national women’s squad, nicknamed Banyana Banyana.

Ms Simelane was returning home from a night out with friends in Kwatema, near Johannesburg, when she was reportedly targeted by a gang of youths.

Her body, which showed signs of repeated stabbings and rape, was found on open ground nearby.

In February human rights groups and gay activists launched the 07-07-07 Campaign.

On 7th July last year two lesbian women, 34 year old Sizakele Sigasa and 23 year old Salome Masooa, were raped, tortured and killed in Meadowlands, Soweto.

Their hands were tied up using their underwear and their tied ankles using their shoelaces.

Both had been shot several times. On February 4th 2006 lesbian Zoliswa Nonkonyane was murdered by a mob of 20 men.

None of these cases have been solved.

Gay rights group Triangle Project claimed police ignore reports from gay and lesbians that they had been assaulted or raped because of their sexual orientation and some health workers had refused to help lesbians who had been raped.

“Thirteen years into our democracy and our progressive constitution, which includes the protection of the human rights of LGBTI persons, we find ourselves still marching for freedom,” the group said in a statement launching the 07-07-07 Campaign.

“Our black sisters in townships and rural communities are continued targets of corrective rape; verbal, sexual and physical abuse; plagued by violence and trapped by the collective oppressions of sexism, homophobia, hetero-normative values and patriarchal structures.

“Black lesbians and effeminate men are humiliated and publicly shamed resulting in their brutal and violent deaths which are ignored by local authorities and national leadership.”

In response to these criticisms South Africa’s Police Inspectorate has promised “decisive action” against officers who ridicule gay people or ignore homophobic hate crimes.