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Cablegate: Pretoria Response: Rights Vis-a-Vis Sexual

VZCZCXRO7077
RR RUEHDU RUEHJO
DE RUEHSA #2670/01 3631229
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 291229Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0747
INFO RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 7468
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 1533
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 9823

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 002670

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM SF
SUBJECT: PRETORIA RESPONSE: RIGHTS VIS-A-VIS SEXUAL
ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY

REF: STATE 130765


-------
Summary
-------

1. Laws against homosexuals or transgendered persons are not
a concern in contemporary South Africa, which may have the
most progressive legal framework vis-a-vis gay rights
anywhere in the world. Discrimination on grounds of sexual
orientation is explicitly outlawed by the Constitution, and
the state recognizes same-sex marriage. Although the
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community
enjoys official protections, it does suffer abuse and
violence at the hands of more conservative or intolerant
elements within society at large. Churches and tribal
leaders advocate against gay rights, but they are unlikely to
succeed in overturning existing legislation. End Summary.

-----------------------------------
Laws: "Gold Standard" on Gay Rights
-----------------------------------

2. Protection of gay rights is enshrined in South Africa's
Constitution, same-sex marriage is legal, and the official
line staunchly protects the freedoms and dignity of LGBT
persons. In reaction to the repressive history of apartheid
(under which homosexuality was a crime punishable by
imprisonment), the Constitution of 1994 is heavily rights
focused, and the first in the world explicitly to include
sexual orientation among the forms of discrimination outlawed
by its Bill of Rights. The 1998 Employment Equity Act and
2000 Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair
Discrimination Act similarly include sexual orientation among
the criteria barred in labor hiring and access to public
services. In 2006, South Africa became the first African
country to legalize same-sex marriage (with Parliament
passing the measure by an overwhelming 230 to 41). Post is
not aware of any reports of official mistreatment or bias
against gays since 1994. Justice Edwin Cameron, who is
openly gay and HIV positive, was appointed on January 1,
2009, to the Constitutional Court, the country's highest.

----------------------------------------
Attitudes: "Wrong"... But Not Everywhere
----------------------------------------

3. Despite official protections, GLBT persons face varying
levels of mistreatment depending on their location and
religious / ethnic community. A 2008 survey found widespread
public intolerance of homosexuality, which was commonly
labeled "unAfrican," with 80 percent of respondents believing
that sex between two same-gender persons was "wrong."
Homosexuals are subject to societal abuses including hate
crimes, gender violence targeting lesbians (so-called
"corrective rape"), and even murder. (See post Human Rights
Report for specific cases and prosecution status.) This
varies by locale, however, with rural areas typically
conservative while major cities are more liberal, with some
night club venues catering to gays. Johannesburg and Cape
Town both host annual Gay Pride festivals, and smaller towns
have similar events. Cape Town is seen worldwide as a "gay
friendly" tourist destination, and tourism boards produce
travel literature aimed to the gay market. Leading
commercial TV network M-Net created a gay character for its
popular TV soap opera "Egoli," helping to contribute to a
slowly evolving tolerance.

--------------------------------------------- -
Anti-Gay Voices (Tribal, Religious, Political)
--------------------------------------------- -

4. Conservative segments of society -- mostly tribal and
religious leaders, but also some minor political parties --
have vehemently resisted this legal and social
Qhave vehemently resisted this legal and social
liberalization. Traditional chiefs advocate for a rollback
of gay rights, which they say is a corruption imported from
the west. The 2006 deliberations over same-sex marriage
legislation were accompanied by street protests organized by
groups like the Marriage Alliance. Marginal conservative
parties like the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP)
and United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP) proposed
constitutional amendments to ban gay marriages. After the
law's passage, the Catholic Bishops Conference conceded legal
defeat but vowed to fight same-sex unions on moral grounds.
None of these groups has gained much traction among
lawmakers, however. In part this is because LGBT advocacy
organizations are well organized and vocal. Perhaps as an
outgrowth of the long-running battle for state and public

PRETORIA 00002670 002 OF 002


understanding of HIV/AIDS, whose leaders included openly gay
activists like Zackie Achmat of the Treatment Action Campaign
(TAC), LGBT issues are "coming out of the closet," very
gradually diminishing in stigma as public attitudes catch up
to the more progressive vision set forth by South Africa's
parliament and courts.

GIPS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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