Tue, Apr 09, 2013 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

South Africa not homophobic

What Stephen Whitehead wrote in an opinion piece about South Africa is not only spurious; it is also incorrect and insulting to South African society as a whole (“‘Gay index’ underrates Taiwan,” April 7, page 8).

Whitehead states with seeming authority that “it is difficult to understand how South Africa and Mexico — two of the most violent, sexist and homophobic countries on the planet — can be ranked above, or indeed even alongside, Thailand, a country where being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) is acceptable, if not openly tolerated across most levels of society.”

I cannot speak for Mexico, but on the topic of South Africa, allow me to set the record straight (no pun intended).

Yes, there is a lot of violent crime in South Africa, but the number of incidents has been falling steadily for several years — so much so that the country does not even appear on those regularly published “most violent in the world” lists anymore, like it used to.

However, for the life of me, how is South Africa “sexist and homophobic?”

This is not what I want to address, but Whitehead may be surprised to learn that South Africa is widely seen as having one of the constitutions that most empowers women among modern democracies. For instance, it is far, far easier for a woman to get a job than it is for many men, and women have experienced true legal and social upliftment since the birth of democracy in South Africa. Their rights have also been specifically enshrined in the constitution and are enforced.

The thing that really got my goat was Whitehead’s unfounded utterance about South Africa being homophobic. On what facts is this complete nonsense based on?

It would have been easy for Whitehead to understand why South Africa is ranked above or alongside Thailand as far as gay rights are concerned, if he had done his homework before putting pen to paper.

In South Africa, gay people have the legal right to get married. They have the legal right to adopt children. They have the right to do anything they please, as long as their actions fall within the boundaries of the country’s laws — just like all people in the country, of whatever sexual orientation.

South Africa’s LGBT citizens live their lives openly, with complete acceptance and, in many cases, to great acclaim. LGBT people form an integral and vibrant part of South African society, and play an important role in that young democracy’s development. Without fear of a backlash of any kind, gay people in South Africa — regardless of color — openly occupy important positions, from much-loved, award-winning authors, artists and musicians, to high-power senior judges, opinion-makers and masters of commerce.

Cape Town is not called the “San Francisco of Africa” for nothing. I would like to see a city in Thailand where gay people openly contribute so much to the place where they live, and where events like the annual Mother City Queer Project parties are held and attended by thousands of gay and straight people from all over the world.

There are people of all sexual orientations who have fought long and hard to get LGBT people the legal rights that they deserve. The LGBT community itself has won the right to live openly, unfettered and completely accepted in a country known as the Rainbow Nation. For anybody to suggest otherwise out of ignorance of the facts is a slap in the face to all South Africans.

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