Sexuality and Security in South Africa

In 1996, with the adoption of the new constitution, South Africa became the first country in the world to enshrine protection for LGBT citizens into its founding legal document. In contrast to many other postcolonial African states South Africa suggested that LGBT citizens, far from constituting a threat to the national body, were instead valuable members of the national community. This equality clause to the constitution (which also protected other identity based rights including language, gender, and nationality to name a few) was to be the basis in which South Africa dismantled its apartheid laws that criminalized same sex relationships. The culmination of the increasing equality of LGBT citizens under the law was represented by the Constitutional Court’s decision in 2005 that legalized same-sex marriages. By December of 2006 parliament had drafted a new law that created marriage equality in South Africa and eliminated bias based on LGBT identity in South African law. However, despite these legal shifts, the reality on the ground for LGBT South Africans, particularly for LGBT South Africans who are poor, working class, and living in inner city, township, and rural areas is much less rosy. This is particularly the case for gender non-conforming LGBT South Africans. Far from signaling the beginning of increased security, the shifts in South Africa’s legal code instead point to the contested nature of constitutional protections and the fluid intersection between sexuality and security in the post apartheid state. In general, insecurity for black South Africans is a fact of life in South Africa. The situation becomes more fraught for the most vulnerable populations, including women, children, and members of the LGBT community. What follows is an institutional mapping of the main actors in relationship to LGBT rights and security for black South Africans…

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