South Africa: Behind the reluctance to champion gay rights in Africa

South Africa is, in some ways, the exception to the generally grim situation facing the estimated 50 million-strong LGBTI community in Africa. Its progressive constitution explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The country’s vibrant civil society includes a broad range of gay advocacy groups.

But South Africa’s stance on gay rights in Africa is opaque. Scientists from South Africa and Uganda produced research demonstrating that the rationale for repressive laws on the continent are baseless and pernicious. The study found that homosexuality is a normal sexual orientation and that criminalising it can have negative repercussions across society. In 2011, South Africa bravely led on gay rights issues by introducing a resolution to the UN Human Rights Council that called for equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation.

Yet less than three years later it was reticent about a follow on resolution calling for countries to report on LGBTI violations. Graeme Reid of Human Rights Watch described South Africa’s foreign policy on gay rights as “at best inconsistent and at worst obstructionist”. South Africa’s uncertainty on if, and how, it should promote gay rights in Africa stems from two primary sources. Read More