Author: Joelle Dountio
PhD candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria
Religion, traditional cultural beliefs and law are all used by humans to fuel hatred, stigma, and discrimination towards homosexuals. The rights to equality, non-discrimination and freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as upheld by the International Bill of Rights and other human rights instruments are, for the most part, all recognised in the constitutions and other national laws of most African countries. However, 36 of the 54 African countries have punitive laws on homosexuality. Meanwhile, homosexuality is a sexual orientation and a prohibited ground for discrimination under international human rights law (Toonen v. Australia).
Historically, religion has been used to justify some of the worst atrocities committed against human beings. Some of these atrocities include: slavery, the holocaust, apartheid, racism and terrorism. Today, the Bible is used to justify homophobia based on the famous kingdoms of Sodom and Gomorrah. The question I ask is, does the Bible really mean that we should kill these people as is happening today? And even if it does mean this, what about other practices for which the Bible says people should be killed? This Bible says married women who have sexual relations outside their marriage should be killed. The Bible says we should sell all we have and give the money to the poor. The Bible says we should not make carved images of anything in heaven. Why do Christians not apply these? Apparently man chooses to follow only those sections of the Bible which suit him and enable him to meet his selfish goal irrespective of the consequences to others. Is this not hypocrisy?
South Africa has some of the most progressive legislation on gender equality in the world yet there is a lack of de facto equality in this country. A new Bill has been put forth to further promote women empowerment and gender equality – will this be the solution?
In September 2012 the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities presented the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill (the Equality Bill). The purpose of the new Bill is to establish a legislative framework for the empowerment of women and to provide an obligation to adopt and implement gender mainstreaming. The Bill includes detailed provisions regarding these issues such as encouraging the recognition of the economic value of the roles of women in various sectors of life, and the achievement of at least 50 % representation and participation of women in decision-making structures in all entities.