26 February 2014
No one should be subjected to discrimination or violence on the basis of their sexual orientation, South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation said on Tuesday.
This follows Monday’s signing into law, by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, of a bill that makes that country’s existing penalties against homosexuality even tougher, including life sentences for gay sex and same-sex marriage.
Earlier this year, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law an anti-gay bill in terms of which offenders could be sentenced to as long as 14 years in prison.
Outside Africa, meanwhile, the US state of Arizona is considering a bill which would allow business owners to refuse to serve same-sex couples on the basis of their religious beliefs.
And Russia continues to draw criticism from the global LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex) community following President Vladimir Putin’s passing last year of a law prohibiting public support or promotion of homosexuality.
SA to ‘seek clarification’ on recent developments
On Tuesday, Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, said South Africa took note of recent developments regarding the situation of lesbians, gays, bisexual, transsexual and intersex persons worldwide.
“The South African government will, through existing diplomatic channels, be seeking clarification on these developments from many capitals around the world.”
South Africa is the only African country in which discrimination based on sexual orientation is constitutionally outlawed, as well as the only country in Africa to legally recognise marriage between people of the same sex.
“South Africa views the respect for the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms as a critical pillar of our domestic and foreign policies; hence they are enshrined in our Constitution,” Monyela said.
SA ‘working to end violence against gays, lesbians’
At the same time, he acknowledged that South Africa was still faced with the challenge of homophobia and violence against gays and lesbians.
“The government has decided to adopt measures aimed at significantly enhancing our protection mechanisms aimed at curbing violence against the LGBTI community,” Monyela said. “To this end, our focus will also be on ensuring that acts of violence do not go unpunished and that perpetrators are apprehended, prosecuted, convicted and appropriately sentenced.
“Our Constitution makes it impermissible to discriminate on the ground of sexual orientation. Therefore, eradicating hate crimes and intolerance in regard to this matter remains a key preoccupation of the government, working collectively and with the relevant civil society organisations.”