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social sciences

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South Africa  
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In 1997, activist Graeme Reid helped found the Gay and Lesbian Archives (later renamed Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action, or GALA). Under the slogan, "Without queer history, there is no queer pride," members of GALA work to reclaim African queerness.

In 1994 the first Out in Africa Film Festival was organized in celebration of queer inclusion in the new constitution. With a goal of education, increasing gay visibility, and challenging negative stereotypes, the festival continues as an annual event in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Sponsor Message.

Another important issue facing the queer community of South Africa is the legacy of centuries of racial oppression and segregation. Though racism, classism, and sexism remain difficult issues in all societies, South African gay men and lesbians have made conscious efforts to organize and build unity across race, class and gender lines.

In 2008, the glbtq communities of Johannesburg and Soweto worked to heal the rifts created by apartheid by creating an interactive Remembrance Wall where glbtq people from both city and township could share their feelings and experiences. A joint Soweto and Johannesburg Pride celebration contributes to the solidarity effort.

In 2011, the Cape Town Pride parade organizers chose the theme, "Love Our Diversity," calling their community, "a culture that cannot simply be unified under the word gay." Parade planners, including Deputy Director Sharon Jackson, who is also on the board of the Out in Africa Film Festival, also made a strong effort to combine the celebration with important political issues. One of the most critical of these issues is confronting so-called "corrective rape," or rape of lesbians, supposedly with the aim of forcing them into heterosexuality.

Corrective Rape

One of the most damaging forms of homophobia, corrective rape began to come into public awareness in the first part of the twentieth century but its origins are far older. Because of the shame attached to being the victim of such a crime and the fear of reprisals, women are often afraid to report rape, particularly one that exposes them as lesbians. In spite of these fears, in 2003 thirty black lesbians in the Johannesburg area came forward to say they had been raped, and gay rights activists began to work to expose corrective rape as a hate crime.

Still the South African government was slow to respond. In 2007, after her best friend and her fiancée were raped, Ndumie Funda and other lesbians formed the organization Lukekisizwe to fight back against corrective rape. According to the group's statistics, 31 lesbians were murdered between 2001 and 2011, and at least ten a day are raped in Cape Town alone. Perpetrators are almost never prosecuted.

Members of Lukekisizwe have worked to force the government to acknowledge the widespread occurrence of corrective rape and to initiate anti-homophobia education in public schools and in law enforcement. They have also gathered more than a million signatures on a worldwide petition to have corrective rape classified as a hate crime.

Anti-lesbian violence was tragically brought into the public arena in April 2008, when Eudy Simelane, a well-known football star and one of the first open lesbians in the township of Kwa Thema, was raped and brutally murdered. Following Simelane's death, Triangle, a South African gay rights organization estimated that 86 percent of the country's lesbians live in fear of sexual assault.

As positive as was the 2006 decision to recognize same-sex marriage, some believe it has inflamed homophobia and anti-gay violence.


South Africa's HIV and AIDS epidemic has had a major effect on the country. It is believed that more people are living with HIV in South Africa than in any other country. HIV in South Africa is transmitted predominantly through heterosexual sex, with mother-to-child transmission the other main transmission route. Still, AIDS has also affected the homosexual community as well.

One of the leading AIDS-activists is Zackie Achmat, a former anti-apartheid and gay activist who founded the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality. In 1998, Achmat, who is himself HIV-positive, co-founded the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), which works to make certain that everyone has access to appropriate treatment.

The TAC focused initially on assuring access to medicine for those who could not afford private health care, targeting governmental indifference and large pharmaceutical companies who were more intent on protecting their copyrights than in helping poor people. Since then, it has broadened its scope to more elements of health care provision, particularly the implementation of an anti-retroviral program in the public health sector.

In 2008, Achmat jointly founded the Social Justice Coalition, which aims to promote the rights enshrined in South Africa's Constitution, particularly for poor and unemployed people living in rural areas. He currently serves as the Director of the Centre for Law & Social Justice, a political, economic, and legal research center based in Cape Town.

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