Constitutional Hill

Human Rights Commission calls on government to break silence on homophobia


The South African Human Rights Commission is concerned at the alarming growth of state-sanctioned homophobia taking place across the globe and particularly on the African continent.

There are at least 38 African states that have criminalised homosexuality. Nigeria became the latest country to promulgate anti-gay legislation following President Goodluck Johnathan’s decision to authorize a law that prohibits gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) relationships, and bans public displays of affection between same-sex couples. Nigerians found to be practicing such face severe penalties including a 14 year jail term.

Since 18 January 2014, dozens of people have already been arrested in Nigeria in terms of the new law.

The SAHRC calls upon the South African government to join other progressive governments in urging the Nigerian government to review its homophobic legislation.

The SAHRC believes that the South African government must seek to exert influence over other African countries to follow good human rights practices in line with those countries’ commitments under international and regional laws and conventions including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which guarantees the right to freedom of expression (article 9), freedom of association (article 10), freedom of assembly (article 11), and the equality of all people (articles 2 and 3).

The leadership expected of South Africa on this issue has been heightened following South Africa’s recent ascension to the UN Human Rights Council.

The significance of South Africa’s appointment to serve on the Human Rights Council is that the country can exert influence to ensure international protection of fundamental rights, particularly within its African counterparts.

In fact, in 2011, it was South Africa that initiated a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in support of gay rights

Given the broad protection of rights guaranteed by our progressive Constitution which includes freedom from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, South Africa has an obligation to ensure other Africa countries comply with international human rights obligations.

The SAHRC believes South Africa had missed an opportunity this past week to raise this issue at the 22nd African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where Presidents from most African countries gathered to present country reports on progress to the African Peer Review Mechanism Forum.

The Commission lends its support to government and civil society in efforts to address the challenges of violence against sexual minorities, and attempts to improve the responsiveness of our criminal justice system.

The SAHRC calls on the South African government to do more to engage diplomatically with African countries that seek to outlaw fundamental freedoms and human rights, including gay rights to desist from such intended practices. The South African Constitution is one of the most revered in the world and many nations could emulate some of the rights it guarantees, including the right to equality inclusive of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Intersex rights.

Statement issued by Isaac Mangena, SAHRC Spokesperson, February 5 2014

  • Charle Alberts

    I agree with the SAHRC’s argument which states that South Africa should use their influence in other Africa countries to persuade them to forcefully apply human rights that will allow relationships of the same gender. I also agree that South Africa did indeed pass up a good opportunity at the 22nd African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where they could’ve had an influence on the thoughts of these countries on these relationships and if they should, or should not allow the law that prohibit same gender – and bi-sexual relationships.

  • Puisano Motshwane

    Human Rights Commission Calls On Government to Break the Silence On Homosexuality

    Within the South African context, the rights of citizens are firmly entrenched in The Constitution, which holds supreme law. Freedom rights are of fundamental importance to all citizens as it allows them to freely express themselves, which is also an important aim of Democracy. The fact that more African countries, in particular, Nigeria, are subscribing to the increasing trend of turning a zero tolerant eye towards homosexuality, by criminalising it, leaves an outsider with feelings of concern.

    It is obvious to state that homosexuals are human, too. In light with the Constitution, the adoption of harsh conditions upon homosexuals by the Nigerian government would be deemed as inhuman.

    Generally speaking, the law and its application is objective and holistic as it strives to create an environment with peace and harmony amongst all citizens, regardless of race, gender, sex, age, etc. However, the Nigerian government is an exception to this rule as they have taken a subjective stance by criminalising homosexuality.

    The issue of a person judging another person on any discriminative grounds is of controversy, because, South Africa progresses to unshackled the chains of Apartheid, which bears a similar controversy. Therefore, South Africa, as a progressive nation, bears the duty of exerting influence over the Nigerian Government in urging them to review their oppressive laws. Promotion of human rights is important as it ensures the people of the state are taken care of, which is an objective of any democratic nation.

    Any issue that is remnant of the Apartheid era should be remediated and that’s why South Africa bears the significant duty of playing its role, especially with its status as a democratic, Multi faceted nation in Africa. This position is not for South Africa to affirm that they are pro-homosexuality, but rather to disregard and show a strong stance of being against the oppression of it.

  • MelAC1801

    Discriminating against any persons or group of people, even based on sexual orientation is indefinitely unconstitutional. Same-sex relationships are not an act that can be criminalised with sufficient justification.

    I do agree that South Africa should take part in influencing and encouraging other countries, especially the African countries, to uphold and initiate a practice of non-discrimination, freedom and equality as is contained in South Africa’s own Constitution. Our Country should promote what is stated in our Bill of Rights of the Constitution, section 2 9(3): ” The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against
    anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”
    This should be extended to the other countries so that our country can create a continent that can follow our example if we follow it too.
    It is glorious to say that given South Africa’s history and the protection of rights that exist and developed into our Constitution, our country still has the responsibility to uphold its side as well. After all, our country does run on Constitutional Supremacy and we could promote the development of equality and assist homosexuals in a fair life that everyone deserves.

  • brian chipa

    In the light of South African constitution and legislation homosexuals are being discriminated in some African countries.The African charter on human rights in particular article 2,3,10,and 11 uphold human rights,

    I agree with the South African Human Rights Commission that South Africa should break the silence on homophobia in Africa because it is the leader at the UN Human rights council so has some power in influencing campaigns for the promotion of gay rights.

    Since South Africa initiated the resolution at the UN Human rights council in support of gay rights the government should follow up on that.because of their silence Uganda went on to introduce a bill against homosexuals and on top of that it said it is following silent diplomacy at the expense of gay peoples`rights and life`s.Ethiopia is the next country which is likely to follow Uganda and the government is silent yet it was the one which initiated the support of gay people.i agree with SAHRC that South Africa should engage more diplomatically with other countries in dealing with the problem of homophobia using South Africa`s constitution which promote equality

    Also the 22nd African Union summit in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia was a perfect platform for South Africa to discuss homophobic practices in Afria because its the whole of Africa which attends as compared to SADC which is only for southern African nation,provided with this i agree that South Africa should do ,more in promoting human in Afica

  • Juliun Giovanni Vannucci

    In 2006 South Africa became the fifth country in the world to legalize homosexual marriages in accordance with the Civil Union Act. Only in 2013 did Britain legalize homosexual marriage, which is peculiar for such a developed country. We as South Africans should be proud of this achievement in furthering all individuals’ human rights in choosing whomever they want as a life partner. South Africa has major influence in other African countries and thus it would be beneficial if we tried to talk to other African countries about rights of the LGBT community.

  • u14055016

    I believe that any legal subject or person should be able to make choices freely regarding their sexual orientation. Your country should not prohibit you from having feelings or any type of affection towards another gender. Why is same-sex relationships seen as wrong? There are many different religions widely across the world with different morals and views of certain issues. I certainly do not believe that a countries’ law should prohibit a person do express themselves if it does not harm any other person in the process. South Africa strongly believe in human rights like the right to freedom of expression (article 9), freedom of association (article 10), freedom of assembly (article 11), and the equality of all people (articles 2 and 3). Therefor gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender relationships and public affection between the above mentioned is lawful. But if South Africa allows these orientations, how come same-sex marriage is not yet legal in our country? By creating the Civil Union act in my opinion, is discrimination.
    South Africa can not be influential if they can not be a proper example of freedom of expression when they are still depressing the idea of same-sex relationship in the Marriage act of 1961. It is a good idea to influence other African countries to pursue good human rights but in my opinion South Africa has to improve their human rights before they can try to change another countries view and rights.We should Be the change in the world , that we want to see.

  • Sade Deya Crowder


    South Africa has made strides in the field of equality, especially when referring
    to gay rights. This is one of the most
    progressive countries in Africa and therefore it is the South African
    Government’s duty to help less progressive countries in this great continent.

    I share the view of the SAHRC. I believe that our government
    missed an opportunity to speak out against the new laws that were passed in criminalising
    same-sex relationships. This is a fairly liberal country and I find it exceptionally
    sad that our government did not do anything when the human rights of our fellow
    Africans were abolished by way of criminalising gay relationships.

    I believe that this is a tremendous problem in Africa today.
    A country cannot progress in any field if its citizens are repressed. The fact
    that same-sex relationships are punishable by law proves that such countries
    are not yet ready to be a part of the new liberal, equal world we find
    ourselves in today, placing Africa at a disadvantage.

    Therefore South Africa should offer guidance to our fellow
    African countries to make the same strides we have made as a country in
    equality and same sex-relationships. A country can never really be free if some
    if its citizens are held hostage by laws that aren’t meant to be there in the
    first place.

    I am deeply disappointed in Africa and South African for not
    trying to lend a helping hand.

  • Niel du Preez

    Ever since apartheid ended in 1994 South Africa has been
    striving towards equality, not just between races but also gender, religion,
    ethnicity and much more. in order to move forward as a county all people must
    be accepted, thus South Africa implemented the civil rights union, which allows
    couples from the same sex te get married. Thus I believe that criminalising same-sex
    relationships in Nigeria is a mistake. And the SAHRC had a responsibility to
    stand up for the citizens in same-sex relationships at the 22nd African Union
    Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where Presidents from most African countries
    gathered to present country reports on progress to the African Peer Review
    Mechanism Forum.