International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is observed on 17 May

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It’s International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), and UNAIDS is calling on all countries to remove discriminatory laws against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

UNAIDS said in a press statement that stigma towards gay men, sex workers, transgender people is reinforced by criminal laws. More than 65 countries are currently criminalise same-sex relations.

Furthermore, homosexuality carries the death penalty in at least eight countries. Gunilla Carlsson, UNAIDS Executive Director added:

“We all have a moral and legal obligation to remove discriminatory laws and enact laws that protect people from discrimination. To end the AIDS epidemic, people need to be protected from harm. We need justice and equality for all.”

Homophobia in South Africa

While South Africa’s legislation is progressive and looks good on paper when it come to fighting homophobia, the situation is a bit different when one considers who LGBTQI people are still treated in South Africa.

State-Sponsored Homophobia, an annual report compiled by the International Lesbian, Gay, Trans & Intersex Association named South Africa as “regional leader” in marriage equity and protection against discrimination.

However, the high rates of rape and homophobic crime in the country paints a different picture. In addition, LGBTQI people are twice as likely to have attempted suicide in their lifetime.

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The spokesperson for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, Janine Shamos, said that men grapple to come to terms with their sexual orientation, due to the stigma that still exists in our society.

Chief research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council’s Gender and Development Unit, Professor Vasu Reddy explains:

“To come out of the closet is to run the risk of being exposed, and ostracised by a very demeaning society. It’s a moment of vulnerability because you are usually faced with the risk of harassment by friends and family, public insult, rejection and sometimes even physical assault.”

It also doesn’t help that South African communities place restrictions on LGBTQI people by promoting a normative heterosexual model of what life is supposed to be, ie, marriage, children, etc. Reddy adds:

“This is the so-called ‘normalcy’ that society expects. Anything that goes against such a value is seen to be subversive. Homosexuality is therefore seen to be ‘anything’ but normal and these attitudes are propagated by our religions.”

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