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WALKING A TIGHTROPE

On a continent flooded with anti-gay laws and discrimination, South Africa stands out as a beacon of equality. LGBT+ citizens are protected from employment discrimination, can adopt children, get married and access surrogacy treatments. But outside of urban centres, LGBT+ people face homophobia on a daily basis, with a growing number of anti-gay murders damaging South Africa’s reputation as a safe space. So just how tolerant is it?

Growing violence

Crime is rampant in South Africa. Around 50 people are murdered every day, carjackings are commonplace in all provinces and the extremely high rate of sexual violence against women has earned the country the dubious distinction of being ‘rape capital of the world’.

As with elsewhere in the world, wealthier citizens experience lower levels of discrimination than those living in poorer areas. “LGBT+ people in affluent suburbs are more protected based on their locality and privilege they obtain,” says Amnesty International Southern Africa campaigner Uyanda Mabece. “The spaces they are in afford more protection and tend to be more inclusive, with LGBTs in well-offareas less likely to experience attacks, compared to LGBT+ people in townships or rural areas.”

Gay men and lesbians are routinely targeted in homophobic attacks in poorer townships. One of the most disturbing examples of anti-LGBT+ hate crime is the rise of so-called ‘corrective rapes’. Th is practice is predominately carried out by groups of men, who rape their victims in the belief it will ‘cure’ them of homosexuality. Cases of ‘corrective rape’ against lesbians have been widely reported, but gay men, too, are encountering horrific and traumatic attacks.

A study by Out LGBT Well-Being and the University of South Africa Centre for Applied Psychology found that black gay men and lesbians experienced the same levels of ‘corrective rape’. Gay men seen to be subverting established gender stereotypes are most at risk, with few turning to police for help.

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