Digital advocacy on GBV during COVID-19

The University of Pretoria’s Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender invites you to a web-based partner forum series on digital advocacy towards gender and social justice. The sessions will be facilitated by Adebayo Okeowo and the platform will allow you to engage on a range of key digital activism issues like: the shifting shape of advocacy against gender-based violence during COVID-19; and ethical and political implications of taking our work into online spaces. Adebayo is an experienced lawyer and visual campaigner who is passionate about using technology and digital media to promote human rights.

Members of the public are invited to join us in these conversations, with three available sessions:

Session 1: Tuesday, 23rd June 2020 from 14.00-16.00, or
Session 2: Thursday, 25th June 2020 from 14.00-16.00, or
Session 3: Friday, 26th June 2020 from 14.00-16.00

Please RSVP to: with your preferred session(s) to receive the Zoom meeting information and link(s).

digital activism GBV

CSA&G to resume essential services on Hatfield Campus from 24 June 2020

The Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G) at the University of Pretoria will resume essential services to staff and students who have received permission to return to campus under lockdown level 3 regulations.

These services will include:

  • voluntary HIV counselling and testing (with referral for ARV treatment for anyone who tests positive for HIV);
  • counselling related to sexual harassment and sexual and
  • gender-based violence; and counselling on sexualities and gender, primarily for LGBTIQA+ individuals.

COVID-19 screening, hygiene and social distancing measures will be in place. Hand sanitiser and other hygiene products will be available. Additional, but limited, PPE in the form of masks and gloves will also be available to clients who do not have their own.

The services will be available on a booking and walk-in basis from:

  • Date: 24 June 2020
  • Days: Monday to Friday
  • Times: 9:00 to 12:00 (hours will be extended at a future date)
  • Location: Akanyang Building, Hatfield Campus (above Vida)

For bookings or more information, please email us on: or phone us on 012 420 4391.

Mothering and Lockdown

by Dipontseng Kheo

(all mothers quoted here gave their consent)

As parents it is natural to want to protect our children from anything that could possibly harm our young ones. Pregnant mothers are feeling anxious about their unborn babies from this deadly virus.

I read an article about a woman who tested positive for COVID-19 in Belgium, just before giving birth to a healthy baby girl, and now must learn to care for her new-born infant with a mask on. She spoke about the pain of giving birth alone and not being able to see her other children.

When the lockdown was announced in South Africa, my children were still with my parents in Vereeniging, away from where I live. I also had started an online course which had about ten modules and back-to-back assessments. So, I decided to let them stay with my parents so that I could focus on my course and finish administration work I took home before the lockdown. Then COVID-19 statistics gradually went up and the lockdown was extended.

I started receiving homework for my children, one in Primary School and the other in High School. Then social media friends and family started posting activities with their young ones, and today’s slang FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) kicked in. Together with my partner, we decided we would have to fetch the kids. I went to the Police Station to get a permit, but under the regulations only divorced parents who were co-parenting were allowed a permit. The officer advised I write an affidavit stating my reasons. He also highlighted that if I met a roadblock, the law enforcement officials could send me back to Pretoria rather than allowing me to continue with my journey. Well to cut long story short, I managed to fetch the kids, no roadblocks.

For the first three days I was still excited that they were back and I started with trending activities like baking, cooking and exercising together. Some of these were activities we’d never really had time to do together before. In this first week I didn’t touch any school work. By week two I was exhausted, irritable and frustrated. I somehow felt I was not in control and had to try and create a routine. This was not exactly how I’d imagined things. From house chores to cooking, being a judge, doing homework, being a wife and working from home, I was drained. I recall telling our Deputy Director that I needed counselling because I was overwhelmed.

We are not used to being around our kids twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, except for some weekends. I came up with a routine to follow but we rarely followed it. I found new admiration for the patience of teachers; home schooling is really draining if you don’t have that love and patience for teaching. And it’s even worse when you don’t have a clue about what is being taught. I didn’t do EGD (Engineering Graphics and Design) and my Grade 8 daughter asked me to help her. I really didn’t have a clue and that really frustrated me. I thought of finding a tutor, but at the same time I was worried about their wellbeing. What if the very same tutor infects my children with this virus, a virus that’s really got us overthinking? So, we opted for online lessons; it was a bit of a challenge in the beginning, with one laptop, but eventually we found a way around it.

I started speaking to other women to see how they were coping during lockdown. That really helped and gave me the strength to come out of the negative shell I had created for myself.

This is what they had to say:

“As coronavirus was strengthening its grip on the world, we all watched with fear and anxiety. I saw the declaration of a total lockdown of the country in a positive light because at least I knew that staying at home, and not leaving to meet with other people, would actually delay or prevent myself and my children from contracting the virus.

Spending time with my kids proved to be an excellent experience as we spent the time doing small things which mattered the most to each one of us. New routines and habits were formed.

We exercised together, did cooking lessons, cleaned the house, worked in the garden and played together. Most of which are activities we never had enough time to perform before.

The only challenging experience was that of having to ‘homeschool’ the kids. First was the issue of not having enough data to log on to online classes, then we had to print out worksheets which was an impossible task as all shops were closed.

In a nutshell, for me this proved to be a great time for me and my kids to spend together and it allowed us to explore and express our individuality in many different ways.”

Khahliso Zulu, Pharmacist Manager

“As an essential worker I thought life would still be the same at home during lockdown, but only to find out it’s not going to be easy at all.

Being a mother, I had to leave my daughter with Daddy every weekday for work, but will most of the time be on the phone with them, regarding school work issues and making sure when she is home she still acts responsibly.

One beautiful thing about lockdown was that my 11-year-old daughter learned so much regarding house chores, because I would give her things to do after doing school work, then on weekends she will keep on doing all those helping Mommy. This was not an easy time for everybody but again we managed to bond a bit compared to when the world was normal.”

Dikeledi “DK” Letsiri, SABC radio & TV sports presenter

“I have always known myself to be a ‘jack of all kinds’ of mom but have come to realise that in these trying times even super heroes need time out. It has been very challenging to juggle between working from home and home schooling, while trying to keep it together and be prayerful that we keep the family safe from this pandemic. We have all had to adapt, and most importantly, we have to keep sane while trying to avoid stuffing our faces, even though I am trying out new recipes all the time! We might just end up rolling out of this lockdown…lol. I salute all moms out there! Keep being the best mom you possibly can be.”

Evodia Lenong, Policy Administrator

Based on these views of different mothers working from home, or as essential workers, we just have to figure out what works just to be sane during this pandemic.

I must say I am eventually getting the hang of things only weeks later. We still exercise, play games and meditate together. It’s up to an individual to view lockdown from a negative or positive perspective. What works for me might not work for you. Yes, these days are not the same but we still have to look ahead and create a better future for us and our children.

In conclusion, I will like to remind mothers that they should not be hard on themselves. This lockdown is new to everyone and all you’ve got to do is just try to do the best you can. If you are not coping, speak to someone you trust. Free counselling is provided for many many employees, reach out.

Launch – Social Justice Stories: Young People Reflect on HIV, Sexualities, Gender, Race and Inequality

When final year medical student Bettina Buabeng-Baidoo approached the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G) at the University of Pretoria (UP), in her role as Fundraising Officer in the South African Schools Debating Board (SASDB), to collaborate on a social justice writing competition for high school learners, we were very excited.

The South African Schools Debating Board is a non-profit organisation which facilitates World School Style debating in the nation. The SASDB believes that debating and public discourse are pivotal tools in creating a more tolerant and equal society.

The CSA&G runs a social justice project for students at UP, Just Leaders, and we have learned that the energy, enthusiasm and sense of justice in young people is infectious, and critical to a functioning society based on freedom of speech, fairness and dignity, determined to redress the imbalances of the past.

This volunteer programme, funded by the Students and Academics International Assistance Fund (SAIH), aims to build an inclusive UP, one which recognises that differences around class, ability, socio-economic status, gender, sexuality and race still matter in who arrives at, and succeeds in, the University. The Fees Must Fall movement was an earthquake for the tertiary sector, in its aftermath there is still much work to be done.

This social justice writing competition was Bettina’s brainchild; building on her work with the SASDB where she coaches young people in debating skills. This marriage of her interests and the CSA&G’s ethos has been a happy one. Together we developed a call for schools in Gauteng to send teams of Grade 10 – 12 learners, accompanied by their debating teacher, to a one-day workshop on social justice. The workshop was hosted with the generosity of Crawford College in Pretoria and we especially single out Yvonne Reddy for her support for the day.

Run by volunteers of the Just Leaders programme, the workshop explored human rights and social justice in South Africa, and then homed in on themes of race, inequality, HIV, sexualities and gender as exemplars of work that still needs to be done in South Africa to realise the dream of an equal and fair society.

Participants in this workshop were then invited to write and submit an essay which had social justice as its theme. While they were encouraged to write on the themes of the workshop, any essay which explored justice in post-Apartheid South Africa was eligible. We selected the most promising essays, provided feedback for re-writes and revisions where necessary, and helped to polish them lightly so that they shine. We did not select winners or runners up for this exercise, but chose to showcase a cross section of stories instead: the entries appear in no particular order.

It is important to note that we obtained full consent from the essay writers and their parents/guardians for these stories to be published.

This consent was important because we discovered that the learners did not hold back! HIV diagnoses, rape, gender violence, questionings around sexual orientation and gender identity, provocations around race (did it still matter today – definitely said one writer, it shouldn’t said another) and questions of privilege and culpability come up in these stories. There is a rawness to some of them and while they don’t reflect the views of the CSA&G, the SASDB, or the schools from which the learners are drawn, we are also passionate in our defence of their right to have their say. These are their views, their stories and we are proud of them. We hope you will be too.

Publication launch: Just Leaders – sharing their reflections on social justice

Just Leaders and social justice

The Just Leaders project was launched in 2018 as a flagship programme of the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender at the University of Pretoria. Just Leaders draws on the student body and “endeavours to build a movement of active citizen student leaders that promote social justice, critical consciousness and inclusive practices at the University of Pretoria and supporting similar movements at partner universities in the region,” (CSA&G, 2020). Through its focus on student-led and informed research, advocacy and support of intersectional social justice, the Just Leaders programme develops justice-driven leadership that works to improve and sustain inclusive tertiary environments.

The collection of designs that follow in this publication flows from one such Just Leaders initiative. Together with artist and activist Brenton Maart, the Just Leaders research cohort of 2019 gave expression to their own understandings, interpretations and critiques of the notion of “social justice”. Over the course of a year the students engaged in a series of workshops around themes of social justice, political citizenship, activism, agency and intersectionality. Along with the theoretical components of these workshops, the students, under Maart’s guidance, also acquired skills and methods including photovoice and visual literacy.

The outcome of the project challenges its audience to engage with young leaders, not through mediated or second-hand accounts of their experiences and perceptions of social justice, but in their own words. The photos used were taken by the students themselves – self-portraits capturing what appear to be everyday moments – and the text that accompanies the pictures stems from conversations with the students. Together these designs ask of us to rethink not only the supposed limits of student research, but also challenges us to engage in intimate ways with the thinking of the CSA&G’s Just Leaders.

Just Leaders and Black Lives Matter: thoughts and reflections from CSA&G staff

By Pierre Brouard, Chris Jourbert, Vuyisa Mamanzi and Tumelo Rasebopye

Pierre Brouard – introduction

Pierre BrouardIt would be an underestimation to say that we are caught up in a critical global moment around racial justice – well it feels global, though it might be true to say that beyond Covid-19, other parts of the globe are caught up in their own social justice struggles (Hong Kong, China, India, Russia come to mind). The struggle I am referring to is the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest movement in the US, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, echoed by mass protests in many countries, especially the UK where the disproportionate policing of black bodies has always been an issue.[1]

In South Africa we have also seen protests in support of the BLM movement, and our government has made a call for three consecutive “black Fridays” in solidarity with BLM. Our own context has brought an added nuance, in that there have been protests around the killing of Collins Khoza and others in the wake of heavy handed lockdown enforcement. In the private school, and Model C sector there are calls from many former and current black students for a reckoning around schools which are racist and have had a history of exclusion. This is not a new phenomenon, but I believe the current wave of protests is inspired by BLM; they are a call for long overdue action in the many private schools struggling to transform.

However a young black man of my acquaintance was scathing about these private school protests, calling them out for what he said was their middle class privilege.

Writing in the Mail and Guardian[2] , William Shoki argues that a class analysis offers a better insight into current forms of oppression here. Noting that South African incidents of police murder in this country, per capita, are actually three times higher than in America, Shoki suggests that the role of the police as a professional body of law enforcers is not a response to crime, but is a response to the threat that collective [working class] action poses to elite rule, and the unequal social arrangements which undergird it.

Identification with the victimisation of black Americans, he says, “reveals an unwillingness to confront the class character of police repression. So long as there is a capitalist state entrenching private property relations, there will always be some kind of security apparatus to defend it”. In the US this has racism coded into its logic of operation, and in South Africa, class relations.

What we need to do, he suggests, is to embrace and channel rage and protest towards the objective of a better world beyond capitalism.

Of course he is not arguing that the anti-racism project in South Africa is complete, nor that we should not support Black Lives Matter protests. Our history of Colonialism and apartheid harm means that we are still not transformed. I have worked in the school setting and many black students speak movingly, and with anger, about micro aggressions and racism (conscious and unconscious) that they see and feel every day. George Floyd’s death was a trigger, Shoki’s analysis notwithstanding, for many South Africans, mostly black South Africans it could be argued, who feel, at a deeply personal and visceral level, the hurts and rage of history, far and recent.

Here are some thoughts and feelings from CSA&G colleagues on these recent events.

Chris Joubert

Chris JoubertI think people often forget how influential identity truly is. It is easy to tell someone to not care about what others think of you.   How well does that truly work?  What happens when those who are meant to lead and protect a society, show you time and time again that some members of that society are valued less than others?.

Society teaches us that some people do not matter. That it is OK to treat some people poorly and not see them as people, but less than people.

From a young age, it was made clear to me, that the colour of my skin makes me less than human. That sounds dramatic to some people but let me walk you through it.  I was born in foreign country and lived there for most of my childhood. The reason for that was that it was immoral and illegal for my parents to be in a relationship. The country both my parents come from deemed interracial couples to be unnatural, immoral, and therefore illegal. This meant if my parents wanted to be with each other and with their children, they would need to flee from their home and take refuge in a foreign land.

At my school, a teacher told me that I should feel privilege to be in that school, because it gave me an opportunity to be outside of the dangerous area “from where I came”, not knowing that I lived close to that school. It is the same school where a learner told me that the “great thing” about me is that while I look black, I at least have the brain of a white person.

As a teen driving with my brother and father, we got pulled over by the police and my dad was asked if he was being hijacked, while my brother was being searched by the police. To their mind, we were not a family driving together but rather two coloured men hijacking a white man.

These are some examples of racism that I have experienced. From these and many more experiences, I learned that society sees me and people who look like me as criminals, dangerous, violent, and intellectually inferior.

When people say black lives matter, what they are saying is that for centuries the lives of black people have been seen as less valuable than other lives. And now the lives of black people should be valued, respected, and protected as much as other lives have been.

Vuyisa Mamanzi

Vuyisa MamanziWhether listening to a radio talk show, watching a docuseries, reading a newspaper or an academic article, I often hear social justice activists and scholars influenced by the works of Paulo Freire reiterate the following words: “The structure is still exactly the same, only, it has become even more efficient in terms of oppression.”

However, what might have changed at a superficial level is who are the oppressed. The world all over is confronted and turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the midst of this crisis we are once again witnessing high levels of police and army brutality, both in the United States and right here at home in South Africa.  Two cases that have dominated media headlines recently are the killings of two black men.  The death of Collins Khosa of Alexandra Township, South Africa, and the death of George Floyd of Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. These cases are similar, yet different.

In South Africa Collins Khosa died after being assaulted at home by SANDF soldiers, who have since been cleared of the charges, despite a post mortem report stating that Khosa had died of blunt force trauma to the head (Venter, 2020). George Floyd has died as a result of a police officer placing his knee on Floyd’s neck, for nine minutes, resulting in his death (The Indian Press, 2020). These tragic incidents drive one to think deeply about of the concept of “locus of enunciation”, in how one tries to think, understand and make sense of these  killings of two black men, in different parts of the world. Locus of enunciation, is a concept coined by Walter Mignolo (2007) and broadly understood as “to think from where you are located” (Mignolo, 2002). Ngungi wa Tiongo speaks about it in terms of the base: “how we see a thing even with our eyes is very much dependent on where we stand in relation to it” (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2018).

As a black South African woman, how do I think of, make sense of, and even speak of, the death of Collins Khosa, in particular? Living in what is said to be a democratic South Africa, led by a black government. And, I wonder how those in the global north, think of, make sense of, and speak of, the death of George Floyd in a Trump-led country.

Being situated in South Africa, my history and the events leading up to the death of Khosa, forces me to think deeply and critically about our struggles in Africa. Kwesi Prah reminds us of an elite who has inherited and extended the lease of life of the colonial culture. An African elite who has integrated themselves and trying to get a position on the table of western culture. Since the dawn of democracy Kwesi Prah argues that we have succeeded in sending our kids to their schools, learn their languages, speak like them, like the things they like, eat exactly what they eat and drink what they drink.

He pushes it  further by stating that when we do all these things COLOUR does not save us, instead we become part of a culture. He posits that human beings are cultural animals and in South Africa we have succeeded in integrating ourselves into a particular culture (Prah, 2017). Therefore as we think, make sense of and try to understand the death of Collins Khosa, we must remember that our struggle in Africa is not just about race. Instead it is to lift the condition of our history, our culture, our, languages, our heritage and place it at the centre, and that is not blackism, it is Africanism.  It is not just racism that we are fighting, we are fighting for the upliftment of the African history, culture, society, AFRICANS! The fact that most Africans are black does not make all blacks African (Prah, 2017).

Looking at both the cases of Collins Khosa and George Floyd I am reminded of James Baldwin’s words when he said “don’t try to be safe, nobody is ever safe…people are not wicked because they do wicked things. The reason I want to suggest it to you is because I want you to know that there is nothing that has been done to you that you are not capable of doing to someone else.” (Baldwin, 2017).

What we are witnessing in the United States currently in relation to the ongoing protests ignited by the murder of George Floyd is what Kwesi Prah would characterise as an African-American struggle to remove the privileges that whites have over blacks. Prah asserts that US politics and systems have dictated the terms of the freedom struggles of African-American people – a struggle formed around challenging white dominance and privilege – versus the freedom struggles in Africa where questions of identity, language and culture have predominated (Prah, 2017).

bell hooks, in her book titled Black Looks: Race and Representation, says because African-American people have been socialized within white supremacist educational systems and by a racist mass media, “many black people are convinced that our lives are not complex, and are therefore unworthy of sophisticated critical analysis and reflection. Even those of us righteously committed to black liberation struggle, who feel we have decolonized our minds, often find it hard to ‘speak’ our experience. James Baldwin understood this. In The Fire Next Time he reminded readers that ‘there has been almost no language’ to describe the ‘horrors’ of black life. Without a way to name our pain, we are also without the words to articulate our pleasure” (Hooks, 1992).

In their similarities and differences the tragic and unfortunate deaths of Collins Khosa and George Floyd in the hands of state should invite us as “critical thinkers to break with the hegemonic modes of seeing, thinking, and being that block our capacity to see ourselves oppositionally, to imagine, describe, and invent ourselves in ways that are liberatory. Without this, how can we challenge and invite non-black allies and friends to dare to look at us differently, to dare to break their colonizing gaze?” (Hooks, 1992:2).

Being involved in social justice work and activism, and as I witness different forms of injustices unfold during these trying times, I concur with Thuli Madonsela’s sentiments in an open letter she recently wrote to our President, stating that “the constitution requires that no section of society should be unjustly and unfairly excluded from opportunities, resources, benefits and privileges. No group should bear a disproportionate burden.”

Rather, we should build a society which tolerates, respects and treats cultural differences equally. And, remember that South African society has the ingredients for a truly cosmopolitan culture with contributory derivations from all parts of the world.

Tumelo “Duke” Rasebopye – Do #BlackLivesMatter in South Africa?

duke rasebopyeI have been a victim of police violence before and have had a front row seat at how brutal the police can be towards an innocent citizenry. First, in 2015, when a friend and I were arrested while commenting on the police’s violent interventions towards a line of people looking to buy food from a sidewalk vendor; second, later in 2015, during the #FeesMustFall protests, when students from higher education institutions across the country gathered peacefully at the Union Buildings and were ambushed with rubber bullets and teargas after having being called back by authorities for an apparent address by the President; and then in 2016 when we participated in peaceful protests advocating for fair labour practices and the equality of students in the teaching and learnings activities of the University of Pretoria.

What is clear is that #BlackLivesMatter raises an issue that is not just limited to acts of police violence and brutality towards black persons in the USA alone, but gives us an opportunity to interrogate what seems to be an institutional culture that is a cancer to the police’s reputation internationally. Yes, we have been here before, and so have generations before us, but one gets the sense that this time around it has gained a heightened level of attention, gaining allies from unexpected groups and sectors, and hopefully this will be significant enough for it to advance real change.

As wonderful as the support has been from South Africans, one can’t help but notice the overwhelming silence of South Africans towards the excessive force being exercised in our own country. It’s saddening to have seen people being shamed for having not posted anything about BLM while also noting the struggle of local activists in trying to bring attention to, and seek justice for, victims here.

The Covid-19 lockdown period has exposed the blatant racial bias that exists in the South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force. We have seen the level of humiliation used towards black communities in reinforcing the lockdown regulations, we have seen the lengths that law enforcement has gone to in order to locate and arrest offenders who trended on social media. And we have seen the violence used in enforcing these regulations, resulting in death as well. This is not the same energy exercised towards predominantly white communities who may document their violations on social media as well.

Unlike in the USA, the violent enforcement of the law in South Africa is mostly perpetrated by black police officers. This makes it clear that we are not only dealing with a historically racist institution, but that it is so structurally violent that it no longer matters what the race of the police officer is.

The institution remains mostly violent towards black people and black communities in particular and seems to reserve the serving and protecting for white people, privileged persons with power, and those communities and persons who present an association with or proximity to whiteness.

It truly is a joy to have activism reach such levels globally and that groups that have been marginalized historically and structurally today have found a collective voice to call for justice where offences exist, and social justice in its entirety wherever they may live, work or find leisure. The reality is that the hashtag will probably lose traction, the following will reduce significantly, and people will likely return to this issue when someone else dies and we find ourselves outraged by seeing the video on the internet.

There is still a lot of activism needed before we can claim success or any progress towards dismantling this system, but we need to start getting angry at our own institutions here in South Africa and start demanding accountability for the injustice, violence and racial profiling that continues to exist in our country. Especially considering that it is the majority in this instance that remains oppressed and still dies due to the service it receives from the police.


Baldwin, J. (2017). Baldwin Speech: Living and growing in a white world

Hooks, b. (1992). BLACK LOOKS: race and representation. South End Press. Boston, MA

Mandonsela, T .(2020). Dear Mr President – open letter from Thuli Madonsela is going viral!

Mabhena, C. (2019). On the Locus of Enunciation

Ndlovu-Gatsheni, S.J (2018). THE DYNAMICS OF EPISTEMOLOGICAL DECOLONISATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY: TOWARDS EPISTEMIC, FREEDOM. Strategic Review for Southern Africa, Vol 40, No 1. Change Management Unit (CMU) University of South Africa, Pretoria

Prah, K, P. (2017). Has Rhodes Fallen? Decolonizing the Humanities in Africa and Constructing Intellectual Sovereignty. The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF) Inaugural Humanities Lecture. HSRC, Pretoria.

Prah, K, P. (2018). The challenge of language in post-apartheid South Africa.

The Indian express (2020). Explained: Why George Floyd’s death sparked violent protests across the United States

Venter, Z (2020). Soldiers cleared of Alexandra man’s murder

Walter, D. M (2002). The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference


[1] See here for a report on this



Is it or is it not LGBTIQ+ Pride Month in South Africa?

By Johan Maritz


My news feeds on different social media platforms have, since 1 June, been proclaiming that June is Pride Month. Many organisations and groups have now declared June as LGBTIQ+ Pride Month in South Africa and beyond.

I am perplexed by this, as it is indeed Pride Month, but in the US! Pride Month in the US is a commemoration of the Stonewall riots that occurred on 28 June 1969[1]. Police officials from New York City’s Public Morals Division conducted a raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, on that day. This happened regularly but on that day patrons decided they had enough and decided to fight back. Riots ensued, patrons from neighbouring bars joined the fight, cars were set alight, windows were smashed and police ended up having to barricade themselves in the Stonewall Inn. The protest lasted six days! This moment in history[2] is regarded by many as the birth of the gay liberation movement and the start of the fight for LGBTIQ+ equality in the US.

Has Pride in South Africa and around the world become Americanised?

According to French sociologist Frédéric Martel, this is not necessarily the case:

“Gay people are increasingly globalized and often very Americanized, but they remain deeply rooted in their individual countries and cultures. In the era of globalization, openness to influence and rootedness in history are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, the local singularities of gay life and the heterogeneity of LGBTQ+ communities are strong, even when sheltered under the same flag.”[3]

I don’t disagree with Martel, and I accept that local queer movements can and should be African in ethos AND inspired by events in other places, but there are other celebrations in June which may complicate things.

June is Youth Month in South Africa. On 16 June, we commemorate the 1976 Soweto Youth Uprising when young people stood up against the Apartheid government’s directive that Afrikaans alongside English was a compulsory medium of instruction.[4]

Are we inadvertently setting up competing interests through combined commemorations? Do we run the risk of dividing resources, splitting our energies unnecessarily, by allowing Pride Month and Youth Month to overlap?

That may be so, and time will tell. But this may also be an opportunity for LGBTIQ+ youth to be celebrated during Youth Month. LGBTIQ+ youth’s liberation struggle is far from over, with several reports about homophobia and instances of hate crimes against young members of the LGBTIQ+ community. A case and point is the brutal stabbing to death of LGBTIQ+ teen Liyabona Mabishi on Human Rights Day in Khayelitsha this year[5].

The fact that young LGBTIQ+ people are still facing challenges in a post-Apartheid South Africa is disappointing, there is still much work to do. Just as the youth of 1976 rose up against a system which oppressed them, young queer people need to rise up against the oppression many still face today. And they should not have to do that on their own. June could be celebrated and Youth Pride Month.

Here I would like to make a special plea for the role of older LGBTIQ+ people, as people who have wisdom and insight, and who can mentor and support their younger counterparts. Many older people will have lived through enormous legal change: in the addendum to this piece I attach a list of key events that have shaped LGBTIQ+ life in South Africa.

So, when should Pride Month be in South Africa?

I think that the perfect month for LGBTIQ+ Pride would be October, to commemorate the first South African and African Pride event. This was a significant undertaking and not without risk for the 800 or so people who participated.  It was South Africa before democracy and homosexuality was still illegal. This ground-breaking event was inclusive[6] and was also a protest against Apartheid.

In my view, 13 October 1990, is a day that should be remembered and celebrated.

June can be LGBTIQ+ Pride Month if you want it to be. Hopefully it carries meaning for you. As LGBTIQ+ citizens we are also global citizens and there are benefits to having a more global sense of celebration like greater visibility, but please remember that the right to celebrate and exist was a result of a long struggle and that this struggle continues for many members of this global community. Also remember South Africa’s unique LGBTIQ+ history and we celebrated many liberation victories long before the US and the world did. Your pride should boldly include its South African history and many victories. Pride is also not a justification for complacency as the LGBTIQ+ struggle in South Africa is far from over.

Key events that have shaped LGBTIQ+ life in South Africa

I often feel that South African LGBTIQ+ youth do not know enough about their LGBTIQ+ history and perhaps the marginalisation of ‘older’ LGBTIQ+ voices plays a role in this. Here are some dates[7] which might add gravitas to Pride Month, whenever it is celebrated!

January 1966: The Forest Town Raid – police raided a party in Forest Town, Johannesburg. Nine men were arrested for masquerading as women and participating in ‘indecent activity’. This resulted in a lot public and political scrutiny, ultimately resulting in the Immorality Amendment Act of 1969.

21 May 1969: Immorality Amendment Act of 1969 – introduces Section 20A, with the infamous ‘men at a party’ clause, which prohibited two or more men from being together and performing any act that would arouse ‘sexual passion’. The amendment also raised the age of consent for male homosexual activity from 16 to 19, although ‘sodomy’ and ‘unnatural acts’ were already criminal. The objective of the government was to minimise the presence of homosexuals, and protect society from the ‘corrupting influence’ of the LGBT community.

1971 to 1989: The Aversion Project – homosexual soldiers in the South African Defence Forces (SADF) were forced to submit to ‘cures’ for their homosexuality.

4 March 1988: Immorality Amendment Act of 1988 – imposes an age of consent of 19 for lesbian sex, which had previously been unregulated by the law. This was higher than the age of 16 applying to heterosexual sex.

13 October 1990: The Lesbian and Gay Pride March – South Africa’s first Lesbian and Gay Pride march was held on this date in Johannesburg. It was the first Pride March on the African continent and acted as both a gay pride event and an anti-Apartheid march. The march was organised by the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW) and attracted a crowd of about 800 people. Speakers at the event included Beverly Ditsie, Simon Nkoli and Justice Edwin Cameron. The purpose of the event was not only to demonstrate pride in gay or lesbian identity but also to provide a wider platform for voicing political concerns. The march was part of a broader struggle to decriminalise homosexuality in South African law and to end Apartheid.

27 April 1994: Interim Constitution – the Interim Constitution comes into force. It includes a clause explicitly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, giving LGBT South Africans legal protection for the first time. A subsequent court decision in 1998 will establish that the crime of sodomy was legally invalid from this date.

4 February 1997: Constitution – the final Constitution comes into force, including the same anti-discrimination protections as the Interim Constitution.

8 May 1998: Sodomy and ‘unnatural sex acts’ – in the case of National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality v Minister of Justice, a judge of the Witwatersrand Local Division of the High Court declares the criminalisation of sodomy and ‘unnatural sexual acts’, and section 20A of the Sexual Offences Act, to be unconstitutional for violating the anti-discrimination clause of the Constitution.

9 October 1998: Constitutional Court confirmation – the Constitutional Court unanimously confirms the judgment of the High Court in the National Coalition case.

12 February 1999: Immigration – in the case of National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality v Minister of Home Affairs, three judges of the Cape Provincial Division of the High Court rule that it is unconstitutional for the government to provide immigration benefits to the foreign spouses of South Africans but not to the foreign same-sex partners of South Africans. The declaration of invalidity is suspended for one year to allow Parliament to correct the law.

2 December 1999: Constitutional Court confirmation – the Constitutional Court unanimously confirms the judgment of the High Court in the second National Coalition case, but removes the suspension of the order and instead ‘reads in’ words to the law to immediately extend immigration benefits to same-sex partners.

28 September 2001: Adoption – in the case of Du Toit v Minister of Welfare and Population Development, a judge of the Transvaal Provincial Division rules that same-sex partners must be allowed to jointly adopt children and to adopt each other’s children, a right which was previously limited to married spouses.

10 September 2002: Constitutional Court confirmation – the Constitutional Court unanimously confirms the judgment and order of the High Court in the Du Toit case.

18 October 2002: Marriage – in the case of Fourie v Minister of Home Affairs, a judge of the Transvaal Provincial Division dismisses the application of a lesbian couple to have their union recognised as a marriage on the grounds that they failed to attack the constitutionality of the Marriage Act.

31 October 2002: Natural parents – in the case of J and B v Director General, Department of Home Affairs, a judge of the Durban & Coast Local Division of the High Court rules that a child born to a lesbian couple must be regarded as legitimate in law, and that both partners must be legally regarded as natural parents of the children and recorded as such on the birth register.

28 March 2003: Constitutional Court confirmation – the Constitutional Court unanimously confirms the judgment and order of the High Court in the J and B case.

31 July 2003: Marriage appeal – the Constitutional Court refuses leave for a direct appeal in the Fourie case, directing that the appeal should instead be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

15 March 2004: Sex description – the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act, 2003 comes into force, allowing transgender and intersex people to change their legally recognised sex.

July 2004: Marriage Act – the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project launches a case in the Witwatersrand Local Division challenging the constitutionality of the provisions of the Marriage Act that limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.

30 November 2004: Marriage – a five-judge panel of the Supreme Court of Appeal hands down a judgment in the Fourie case. The majority of four rules that the common-law definition of marriage must be extended to include same-sex marriages but that such marriages cannot be solemnised in South Africa until the Marriage Act is amended, either by Parliament or by the Equality Project’s application. The judgment is appealed to the Constitutional Court by both parties.

11 March 2005 Marriage – the Chief Justice instructs that the Equality Project case will be heard by the Constitutional Court simultaneously with the Fourie case.

1 December 2005: Marriage – the Constitutional Court delivers its judgment in the Fourie and Equality Project cases (now known as Minister of Home Affairs v Fourie). The court rules that the common-law definition of marriage and the Marriage Act are unconstitutional because they do not allow same-sex couples to marry. The court suspends its order for one year to allow Parliament to rectify the discrimination.

31 March 2006: Spousal inheritance – in the case of Gory v Kolver NO, a judge of the Transvaal Provincial Division rules that a same-sex life partner is entitled to inherit from the intestate estate of the other partner as if they were married.

August 2006: Marriage – the government rejects a call by the African Christian Democratic Party for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Constitutional Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. Cabinet approves the introduction of the Civil Union Bill in Parliament.

13 September 2006: Marriage – legal but not equal – the Civil Union Bill is introduced in the National Assembly. As originally drafted, the bill would provide for ‘civil partnerships’, for same-sex couples only, which would have the same legal consequences as marriage but would not be called marriage.

14 November 2006: Marriage – legal and equal – the National Assembly passes the Civil Union Bill, with amendments to allow marriages or civil partnerships available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples, by 230 votes to 41.

23 November 2006: Constitutional Court confirmation – the Constitutional Court confirms the judgment and order of the High Court in the Gory case.

28 November 2006: Marriage – the National Council of Provinces passes the Civil Union Bill by 36 votes to 11.

29 November 2006: Marriage/Civil Unions – the Civil Union Act, 2006 is signed into law by Acting President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

1 December 2006: Marriage – the first legal same-sex marriage is performed, in George.

16 December 2007: Age of consent – the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 comes into force, equalising the age of consent at 16; previously it had been 16 for heterosexual sex and 19 for homosexual sex.

31 March 2008: Age of consent – in the case of Geldenhuys v National Director of Public Prosecutions, the Supreme Court of Appeal rules that the erstwhile difference in the age of consent was unconstitutional, notwithstanding that it has already been rectified by Parliament.

26 November 2008: Constitutional Court confirmation – the Constitutional Court confirms the order of the Supreme Court of Appeal in the Geldenhuys case.

18 December 2010: Flag – a gay pride flag of South Africa is launched in Cape Town.

Mid-March 2010: National Task Team – the establishment of a National Task Team (NTT) to address the issue of hate crimes against LGBT people such as corrective rape is mandated by then Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe.

29 April 2014: Intervention Strategy – the National Intervention Strategy for the LGBTI Sector developed by the NTT is launched by then Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe.

25 May 2014: Cabinet – Lynne Brown becomes the first openly gay person to be appointed to a cabinet post in any African government.


Martel, F. 2018. How Pride Became a Global Phenomenon. Available online: [accessed 2 June 2020]

South African History Online. 2014. The History of LGBT legislation. Available at: [accessed 2 June 2020]

South African History Online. 2017. The First Gay Pride March is Held in South Africa. Available at: [accessed 2 June 2020]

Thompson, B. 2020. The History Of Pride Month And What It Can Teach Us About Moving Forward Today. Available online: [accessed 2 June 2020]


[1] The History Of Pride Month And What It Can Teach Us About Moving Forward Today.




[5] Western Cape LGBTIQ+ teen stabbed to death.

[6] Many subsequent Pride events in different parts of the country have been criticized for not being inclusive enough and with their representivity questioned.

[7] Adapted and consolidated from: