While same-sex relationships have become more acceptable, the undertones of homophobia continue to exist

In February, Diego Jacobs, 21, was killed because of his sexual orientation. He was stabbed to death at the informal settlement, Covid, in Delft. Picture: Supplied

In February, Diego Jacobs, 21, was killed because of his sexual orientation. He was stabbed to death at the informal settlement, Covid, in Delft. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 16, 2024


The country has moved in leaps and bounds from an era where same-sex relationships were regarded as a crime and immoral.

In fact, activists and human rights observers have noted this Pride Month that the country has become more tolerant and accepting of people who subscribe to, are part of and stand in solidarity with those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others (LGBTIQA+) community.

They said, however, pockets of society remained homophobic.

“Those, no matter where and how many, are a threat to human rights all over,” sociology professor Sim Ndlazulwana said.

He said that having studied the human mind and understanding why people acted the way they did, likened people who were intolerant of the LGBTIQA+ community to those who perpetuated racism.

“It is a basic lack of understanding and appreciation of the right to be who one is among those who are not of the same way of life.”

He said there were people who quoted Bible verses as a way of demonising the queer movement, not understanding that “within the pages of many books of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, are so many references to same-sex relationships.”

Ndlazulwana said studies had shown that there was a fear of the threat of masculinity in a lot of homophobic circles.

“That men can be perceived in any way not masculine enough to want to be with women is a threat to masculinity, patriarchy. That a man can be intimate in any way with another, that gives men, who control the majority of the country’s economy, education and society, a feeling of anger and resentment, of worry that they too could be thrown into that basket, or worse, approached by other men, and so, homophobia remains a threat.”

The Cape Town Pride parade moving through Somerset Road towards the Green Point Track in Cape Town on March 4, 2023. The event, organised by Cape Town Pride and OUTReach Africa, provides a platform for Cape Town’s LGBTQIA+ community to raise awareness about issues they face. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Lindela Masuka, an activist and organiser of many national pride activities, said: “We obviously appreciate the inclusion of LGBTIQA+ people in the workspace, in churches and, in society. We appreciate the strides that have been made in amending the laws that govern private and public spaces.

“That we can freely march through streets, host pride events, have gay people appear on the big and small screen is something that was far-fetched in the 1960s and early ’70s … Yes, we have come a long way as a country in accepting this minority group. The only thing is, we are not as in the minority as it appears.”

He said there were many men and women and boys and girls who continued to hide their preference, indulged their queerness in private and did not openly speak about undergoing surgery.

The attacks continued, Masuka said. “The cases have stopped being reported about by the media, but gay and lesbian people are continuously attacked, killed and kicked out of home.”

She said they were back-benched, denied promotions and treated in the same way that victims of racism were – in secret.

“We have people who tell horror stories of being treated like lepers when they disclose who they really are, and with every one person who becomes scared to openly be who they can be, it takes the country back decades.”

Masuka said hate crime remained the biggest crime against humanity, in any form it manifested.

She added that it was not up to the government to fix that; it had to start from the ground.

“Honesty, understanding what human beings are, and accepting them in their different presentations will make the difference we all need.”

Sunday Independent

[email protected]