The National Sport of South Africa

Social progressives in South Africa would like to believe otherwise, but the country is mostly socially rightwing and conservative.

Image credit Sheila Sund via Flickr CC.

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, and Jacob Zuma, the country’s president, once said that when he was growing up a gay man would not have stood in front of him without being subjected to violence: “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.

This introduction to an excellent (though depressing) take on homophobia in South Africa by Johannesburg-based researcher and activist Dale McKinley, is worth reading:

“… 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.


Further Reading