The Acceptance of Homosexuality in South Africa
On November 14, 2006 South Africa legalized same-sex marriage. South Africa is among the very few countries around the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Currently, there are only five countries to legalize same-sex marriages and South Africa is not only just one of these countries, but South Africa is also the only country in the continent of Africa, to legalize same-sex marriage. Unlike its African neighbors, who constantly shun the idea of ever legalizing same-sex marriage, talk less of tolerating homosexuality in their country, South Africa on the other hand, has taken a step forward towards providing its people with civil rights. Thus, declaring itself the most liberal African country in today's contemporary society.
CHALLENGES AND SUCCESSES OF SOUTH AFRICAN LGBT GROUPS
Prior to legalizing same-sex marriage, South African LGBT groups faced many challenges with achieving same-sex marriage. Specifically during apartheid, the South African government at the time imposed very strict laws concerning homosexuality. During apartheid, homosexuality was illegal, in which those who were found guilty could serve up to seven years in jail. The passing of the "Civil Union Bill", replaced the former existing law, Marriage Act. The "Marriage Act" discriminated against homosexuals because it only gave validation to marriages that were between only a man and a woman. “The Civil Union Bill”, which was passed by a 230 to 41 vote (there were 3 abstained), provides the space and freedom to marry the same sex.
"In large part, the Act signals a rejection of previous attempts to render lesbian and gay people as second-class citizens. It demonstrates powerfully the commitment of our law-makers to ensuring that all human beings are treated with dignity."
-Fikile Vilakazi, a spokesperson for 17 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) groups in an interview with 365Gay.com
Though the "Civil Union Bill"allows gays and lesbians to marry, some LGBT groups are not too pleased with this specific form of legislature. Unfortunately, the bill also allows churches to deny marrying a same-sex couples, in which some same-sex couples deem the Civil Union Bill as only giving same-sex South African couples partial rights.
Personally, I applaud South Africa for taking the initiative to go against the status quo that is very apparent in the content of Africa. Though I do believe the Civil Union Bill does not fully give gays and lesbians the same rights that were given to those who marry or have relationships with the opposite sex, I nonetheless feel that any step towards giving gays and lesbians more rights is a step in the right direction. Hopefully more African countries will follow suit.