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Visibility will enhance sexual equality

- By Refilwe Mabula

Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron has called for “visibility” as a means to address sexual orientation inequality and discrimination in South Africa and Africa.

Cameron, an acclaimed gay-HIV activist proposed this last week at a Pride and Peril lecture titled LGBTIAQ rights in Africa today – A personal perspective.

The lecture was hosted by  the Wits student society ACTIVATE Wits, in partnership with the Wits Transformation and Employment Equity Office, UJ LGBTIAQ student society and others. 

According to Cameron, it is very difficult for people to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual, queer other sexual orientations (LGBTIAQ) in their societies because of their sexual identities not being visible enough.

“We are invisible but yet we are in every family, every household, every community, every congregation, every township, every language group in South Africa and Africa. The more visible we are, the more people accept us. Every single family that has over ten member has at least one member who is gay or same oriented,” said Cameron.

 LGBTIAQ in Africa

The sexual identities of LGBTIAQ people challenges deeply entrenched patriarchal hierarchies in Africa.According to Cameron, 38 of the 54 countries on the continent criminalise same sex activities including countries such as Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Cameron said that South Africa has become a catalyst for sexual equality in the continent, inspiring countries such as Mozambique which recently passed out a legislation that decriminalises same sex activities on their country.

Constitutional transition for  LGBTIAQ

South Africa made great strides in the continent and globally when the countries first constitution came out in 1994 with a legislation for sexual equality.

“South Africa is the first country which created constitutional equality for gay and lesbian people; most of our legislation is sexual orientation friendly, and we now have the right to marry,” he said.

However, despite the sexual equality legislation passed in the constitution, Cameron believes that the constitution is part of the greater challenges faced by LGTBIQ people.

“It is part of a bigger problem, the problem of making real the promises of equality and dignity which we made to each other as South Africans 21 years ago”.

During a question and answer session which ensued after his lecture, Cameron was adamant that “visibility” can combat sexual discrimination when asked what else, besides visibility can be done to enhance LGTBIQ visibility.

“Visibility is what starts the process to get equality. All strategies start with visibility,” reiterated Cameron.