Homophobia as National Sport

This may make for depressing reading with your breakfast, but there’s nothing new about the entrenched  homophobia in South Africa, a place where men rape lesbians to “correct” them, a government minister last month refused to open a state-funded exhibition featuring photographic images of intimacy between gay women (the image above is an example), and Jacob Zuma, the country’s president, once said that when he was growing up gay men would not have stood in front of him. “I would knock him out.”

Recently, the leader of the second-largest political party and premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille, appeared at “a prayer rally” alongside evangelical preacher, Angus Buchan, who wants to “cure” homosexuals.

Here‘s the introduction to an excellent take on homophobia in South Africa by Johannesburg-based researcher and activist Dale McKinley:

As much as those of us who identify ourselves as social progressives would like to believe otherwise, the reality is that South Africa is a bastion of social conservatism. Indeed, one of the most glaring contradictions of South Africa’s post-apartheid ‘transition’ is that the widely acknowledged (and regularly celebrated) social progressiveness of the Constitution is, in large part, at fundamental odds with the beliefs and views of the majority of South Africans themselves …. Besides the consistent defence of narrow-minded patriarchal social relations and ongoing displays of general indifference to the epidemic of violence against women, in more recent times the most publicly visible and propagated form of social intolerance has been homophobia.  It was none other than Jacob Zuma who got the ball really rolling back in 2006 when, at a public function, he proudly stated that, “When I was growing up ungqingili (gay men) would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out.”

Although [Zuma] later apologized, his complimentary remark that, “same-sex marriage is a disgrace to the nation and to God”, and the positive reception such a view received from sizeable numbers of South Africans, gave firm indication of a deep seated and widely held social conservatism.

Read the rest here.

Sean Jacobs

[HT: Dan Moshenberg]



Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

  1. Depressing as this is its a symptom/result of the increasingly vocal and visible African and Coloured activists who are no longer willing to hide and suffer in silence but now demand the rights and protections set out in the South African constitution. For a long time being gay could be ignored and dismissed as an aberration of White South Africans but that's no longer the case. Unlike its neighbors, South Africa is an interesting case because its constitution is clear in its recognition of the rights of gay people. How will the homophobia of society reconcile with the legal/constitutional framework? Will the constitution be amended to deny gay rights or will society have eventually change in confirmation with the constitution?

  2. Ekapa is right. There is optimism in this. However this story also shows why the BBC's Africa Have Your Say (known at Bush House now as Africa Kill Your Gay) was such apallingly irresponsible 'journalism'.
    Thanks for this link.

  3. @ekapa: I agree. My posts on homophobia seldom mention that it is the result of ballsy work by black and coloured gay activists. No doubt. So it is harder to dismiss it as the work of white people (as Mugabe always does and it is done elsewhere) or even in South Africa where black leaders pulled that card for a minute. I'll post a video later tonight (that a friend forwarded me) that captures the energy ekapa talks about.

    @Lara: Yes on the beeep.

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