GW in SA: Gay Marriage

Yesterday the South African parliament voted to legalize gay marriage, making it the first African nation to do so. However, virtually all gays favor marriage rights, one can still see the legacy of apartheid exists. When Global Wire went to South Africa last month, we met with Donna and Zanele of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), which is a support organization for black lesbians throughout South Africa. South Africa has the most progressive constitution in the world in regards to gay rights. Despite this, homosexuality is very much stigmatized within black communities, as it is seen as un-African. A large number of black lesbians are raped or tortured simply because of their sexual orientation. Donna pointed out that there is a sharp divide between white gays and black gays about what are priority issues. Gay marriage is an issue that is mainly supported by the white gay community. "While we support legalized marriage as an organization," Donna said, "poverty, violence and healthcare are bigger, more important issues for black lesbians. What is the sense of having marriage if you are poor with HIV and can’t rub two cents together?" Black lesbians who have AIDS and have children worry more about who will take care of kids when they die. Their families usually don’t want to adopt the children of the deceased because of stigma around homosexuality and HIV/AIDS. FEW feels that economic empowerment is the key priority for black gays through hosting skills training seminars and panel discussions. FEW is also working on legislation to create laws that the rape of a lesbian is a hate crime.


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