South Africa: LGBT Groups Respond To Contralesa’s Stance On Same Sex Marriage

PRESS RELEASE: 26 October 2006

CONTRALESA’s attack on the Constitution, the building blocks of a free and democratic society, illustrates a mindset amongst traditional leaders that is stuck in a patriarchal and homophobic past.

CONTRALESA claims to acknowledge that gay and lesbian people should be treated with dignity however they refer to such people as "oddities" and a "problem" that needs "remedy". This undermines our dignity and stigmatizes our relationships.

CONTRALESA states that their stance against same sex marriage does not merit justification. Thuli Madi from Behind the Mask asserts that "this is a convenient cover up for an irrational understanding of homosexuality that fundamentally disrespects and attempts to silence gay and lesbian members of the African community."

CONTRALESA believes that our Constitution is a euro-centric import. We believe that African norms and values do support constitutional notions of human dignity, equality and freedom for all people. The fundamental African value of Ubuntu is closely linked to the protection of human dignity. Through Ubuntu the worth of all individuals are recognized and respected. As such, homophobia is an unAfrican because it denies people the opportunity to express their full humanity.

Nonhlanhla Mkhize of the Durban Gay and Lesbian Community and Health Centre says that "instead of calling for rational discussion on same sex relationships Contralesa has chosen to pretend that homosexuality does not exist in African culture and in doing so whitewashes the lived reality of African lesbian and gay people."

There is ample research illustrating that African people have engaged in same sex relationships throughout our history. For example in Namibia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, bond friendships, ancestral wives, female husbands and male wives have existed for centuries as forms of same-sex relationships. All these relationships were accepted and respected in Africa before colonialism and apartheid.

The proposal to amend the Constitution takes the country a step backward. Melanie Judge of OUT LGBT Well-being urges CONTRALESA to "rise to the challenge of a plural and diverse society and make peace with the diversity of African experiences. This means honoring rather than rejecting our Constitution."

True leaders lead with intellect and wisdom and not with ignorance and suppression. We need CONTRALESA to realise that as traditional leaders, they need to ensure that the influence of African Traditional Values is experienced through peaceful development in the modern South Africa. "The Constitution is the epitome of the spirit of Ubuntu - and this is not visible from the Statement to Parliament on Civil Unions by CONTRALESA." said Mkhize.

ISSUED BY THE JOINT WORKING GROUP - A NATIONAL NETWORK OF 17 LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER ORGANISATIONS

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For more information please contact:

Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Director, Durban Gay and Lesbian Community and Health Centre
Tel: 031 3012145 or 083 7489565

Thuli Madi, Director, Behind the Mask
Tel: 011 4035566 or 073 2279635

Melanie Judge, Programme Manager, OUT LGBT Well-being
Tel: 012 344-5108, or 083 3792488 or 083 2712543.

About the Joint Working Group (JWG)

The JWG came together in 2003 to strengthen the organised LGBTI sector and to maximize responses to LGBTI needs through partnership, collective use of resources and drawing on the strengths of the participating organisations.

Member organizations are:

  • Activate WITS
  • Behind the Mask
  • Durban Lesbian and Gay Community and Health Centre
  • Forum for the Empowerment of Women
  • Gay and Lesbian Archives
  • Gender DynamiX
  • Glorious Light Metropolitan Community Church
  • Good Hope Metropolitan Community Church
  • Hope and Unity Metropolitan Community Church
  • Jewish OUTlook
  • LEGBO Northern Cape
  • Pietermaritzberg Gay and Lesbian Network
  • OUT LGBT Well-being
  • Out In Africa South African Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
  • Rainbow UCT
  • Triangle Project
  • XX/Y FLAME