Pretoria-Marburg Queer Conversations Part 2 Finale: Parenthood and Struggles among LGBTIQ+ Individuals Explored

By Naledi Mpanza

On 22 June 2023 the Centre for Human Rights (CHR) and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS, and Gender (CSA&G) at the University of Pretoria, in collaboration with the Center for Gender Studies and Feminist Futures (CGS) and the Center for Conflict Studies (CCS) at the Philipps-University Marburg, hosted the series finale of the Pretoria-Marburg Queer Conversations.

The conversation brought together experts and activists to discuss the theme of “Parenthood, parental perceptions, and struggles among LGBTIQ+ individuals” and was led by Dr Madeleine Muller, a Family Physician and co-founder of the East London Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and Landa Mabenge, a Doctoral scholar, author, and the first transgender man to successfully motivate a medical aid for the payment of his gender affirming surgeries in South Africa.

The expert speakers reflected on their academic, personal and political experiences regarding the topic, with Dr Muller starting off the conversation with a reflection on the challenges she faces as a parent to two queer children:

Probably the only challenge that I am facing as a mom, and that my family is faced with, is the issue of prejudice. If we didn’t have prejudice in the world, we wouldn’t have this series, there wouldn’t be any issues within the queer community. There is no magic wand, unfortunately, for addressing prejudice, but understanding is usually a good start”.

Muller linked her comment to the broader question of ‘providing patient-centred care’, as well as the limitations that prejudice places on providing such care. She provided a biomedical framing of fear and prejudice; when we are in survival mode our sympathetic nervous system kicks in, leading to fast thinking, fast acting and jumping to conclusions, which leads to unfavourable outcomes. When we are in creative mode our higher order functioning allows us to think more carefully and thoughtfully, we are able to see the bigger picture. Muller thus distinguished between ‘street-view’ thinking which is instinctive and jumps to conclusions versus ‘balcony-view’ thinking which is empathic, generous and considered (and hence less judgemental).

Through personal illustrations from her eldest child, who is also queer, she unpacked the above. For example, some individuals will respond to positive social media posts on Pride with long, illogical, controlling and manipulative utterances that aren’t evidence-based, as a way to quell their fears about, and lack of knowledge on, the LGBTIQ+ community.

Muller spoke of ways to challenge stigma and discrimination and the power of support and allyship for trans youth. Her emphasis was on the role of parents in smoothing the way for their children by: creating safer environments, paying attention to pronouns, seeking affirming counselling, and not allowing negative external factors to overwhelm them. She encouraged parents of LGBTIQ+ children to seek affirmation and support from like-minded people, and from forums dedicated to providing a nurturing environment for families of LGBTIQ+ children.

Landa Mabenge weighed in on the lived reality and danger of families imposing hostile environments for trans and gender diverse persons, that may lead to self-harm and destructive practices. In a captivating presentation, Mabenge shared his experiences of growing up and navigating a cis-heteronormative, theocentric, and colonial world that often clashed with the appreciation of human life beyond sex characteristics and genitals.

He reflected on his early childhood experiences of being parented and how they have influenced his choices regarding parenthood or relationships with partners who are parents. He also emphasised the importance of a clear lexicon for LGBTQI+ individuals and their families to nurture identities safely and progressively, one that is not so far removed from the gender-neutral language that is common in many African languages such as isiXhosa.

Mabenge’s reflection brought forward the considerations of pronouns in African communities as well as black African spirituality, in conversations regarding pronouns and gender diversity. Many of these insights can be found in his book ‘Becoming Him’ which documents the painful journey of living with parents who did not affirm his being, but created a harmful environment compared to the warmer experience with his grandmother.

Both speakers emphasised the importance of creating environments where everyone feels seen, heard, and respected. Mabenge reiterated that,

“At the time I didn’t have the language, the only thing I had at my disposal were the people charged with my upbringing, which I felt and in hindsight realised sort of limited me to what is the physical or natal part of me, but the other parts  of my humanness, the fact that I was developing socially, spiritually, emotionally were silenced…people should not exist in silence, people should not exist in silos…we should dismantle barriers to unity and understanding”

Concluding, Muller called for the establishment of Gender and Sexuality Alliances which are open to everyone, to create safer spaces on campus and promote occupational health, including the provision of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) as a tool for realising sexual and reproductive health and rights, as supported by the South African Constitution. As a doctoral scholar, Mabenge echoed the same and passionately expressed the need for gender-affirming practices and services in healthcare and higher education spaces, whilst calling on universities to initiate and support initiatives such as providing gender-neutral facilities and working across disciplines to advance inclusivity and decolonized curricula.

Both speakers highlighted the revolutionary Southern African HIV Clinicians Society Gender-Affirming Healthcare Guideline for South Africa as instrumental in realising affirming practices for Trans and Gender Diverse persons; and implored practitioners to approach these guidelines as a way of facilitating ubuntu and the Batho Pele principles, meaning ‘putting the people first’. These principles are promoted by the South African Constitution through the Equality Clause and policies such as the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act, 2003 (Act No. 49 of 2003) which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, and make provision for transgender people to align their legal status with their lived gender identity.

Mabenge and Muller are actively engaged in working across disciplines to develop undergraduate and postgraduate courses that promote understanding of gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual health.

The Pretoria-Marburg Queer Conversations event provided a platform for critical reflection and dialogue on parenthood, parental perceptions, and struggles among LGBTIQ+ individuals. By shedding light on lived experiences and advocating for transformative change, the event aimed to foster inclusivity, respect, and recognition for all individuals.

The PMQC team appreciates the support of all the individuals who participated in bringing the conversations to life. For anyone who would like to view the recordings, they can be viewed here:

Unpacking Hate Speech Targeting LGBTIQ+ Persons on Africa Day

The second session of the 2023 Pretoria-Marburg Queer Conversations took place on Africa Day, 25 May, in a joint effort by the Centre for Human Rights (CHR) and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS, and Gender (CSA&G) at the University of Pretoria, along with the Center for Gender Studies and Feminist Futures (CGS) and the Center for Conflict Studies (CCS) at the Philipps-University Marburg. These conversations have emerged from a shared interest in addressing LGBTIQ+ and queer identities among the participating centres.

Titled “Hate Speech Targeting LGBTIQ+ Persons,” the Zoom session, facilitated by Naledi Mpanza, featured insightful presentations by Khanyisile Phillips from Gender DynamiX (GDX) and Dr Kerry Frizelle, a senior lecturer at the Department of Education at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). The presenters skilfully delved into the theoretical and epistemological foundations of hatred against members of the LGBTIQ+ community as well as the lived realities and experiences which come with living in a cis- hetero-normative society.

Frizelle grounded the conversation in the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which has recently been passed by the National Assembly, by drawing from the works of Judith Butler, Sylvia Tamale, and Vygotsky’s theory of internalized language. This approach shed light on the ways in which hate speech manifests and impact on marginalised communities. It does this through the normalisation and internalisation of social and cultural norms which language carries, thereby challenging the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.

Phillips led a practical exploration linking hate speech to hate crimes through highlighting the names of individuals who have fallen victim to hate crimes that arguably stem from the prevalence of hate speech. Notably, Phelokazi Mqathanya and Lonwabo Jack were remembered as tragic examples. Additionally, Phillips touched on the case of Vicky Momberg as a lens to examine the importance of intersectionality in our efforts to understand and confront discrimination, in supporting marginalised communities. Phillips’ examples highlighted the constitutionally protected Section 10 Right to Equality and existing resources such as the Equality Courts which provide recourse for addressing discrimination.

During the conversation, Frizelle emphasized the challenges of changing existing structures but emphasised their role in perpetuating certain narratives. Their poignant statement, “changing structures is hard, but structures hold narratives,” resonated with the audience, highlighting the significance of challenging the status quo. Moreover, Frizelle emphasised the need to decolonise our minds, urging us to seek out narratives from transgender and gender diverse individuals. Further, Phillips stressed the importance of critically analysing our actions and the practices of our institutions, by continuously striving for improvement and accountability in supporting and advocating for the rights of marginalised communities, including refugees and asylum seekers who highlight the intersectionality of human rights. To this, Phillips also shared how tools such as the Model Policy Framework are one step in the journey towards safer institutions that support and protect the rights of trans and gender diverse staff and students in the tertiary space.

Both speakers called upon us to confront our cultural baggage and address our internalised attitudes, which often contribute to discrimination and bias.

In essence, the conversation served as a platform for profound reflection and discussion on hate speech targeting LGBTIQ+ individuals. By exploring the theoretical underpinnings and sharing practical experiences, the presenters shed light on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. It is through such open dialogues that we can work towards a more inclusive and accepting society for all.


Kindly register for the next conversation happening on 22 June 2023 here:


“Joy is bringing your full and apologetic self forward and knowing that you are not wrong to exist”- Bev Ditsie during the 1st 2023 Pretoria-Marburg Queer Conversations

By Naledi Mpanza, Tamrin Slager & Alex Mailola

On April 27, 2023, The Pretoria-Marburg Queer Conversations team hosted Dr Bev Ditsie in an online webinar titled Where is the joy? Portrayals and Depictions of LGBTIQ+ Persons. The event took place on Freedom Day, which falls during International Lesbian Week of Visibility, and was well-attended by colleagues and networks working with the affiliated Centres at the University of Pretoria and Phillips-Marburg University.

The conversations are hosted jointly by the Centre for Human Rights (CHR) and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS, and Gender (CSA&G) at the University Pretoria, together with the Center for Gender Studies and Feminist Futures (CGS) and the Center for Conflict Studies (CCS) at the Philipps-University Marburg. This was the first conversation in the second year of the conversation series.

“I was a very happy kid that was allowed to be herself at home…I was also aware of the politics of borders, gender, race and the moulding of self”

Dr Bev Ditsie, popularly known for being the first African Lesbian to address the UN at the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing 1995, rooted her conversation in personal anecdotes of growing up during apartheid, and her reflections on the strategic erasure of LBQ women throughout history. Ditsie’s presentation seamlessly portrayed an intersectional understanding of Freedom Day and the layered nature of existing in a society where human rights are constantly under threat in overt and insipid ways influenced by state actors and homophobic institutions of influence in different communities.

“I’m blessed to be one of the people that fought”

Touching on her activism for lesbian visibility on the global and local stage, Ditsie shared the joy and triumphs in the movement to recognise lesbian rights as human rights, exist alongside losses and bitter reminders of the denigration of the rights of LGBT persons. Sobering reminders of the joy within the struggle include the arrests following the disco attended by queer activists after the Beijing Conference, the banning of ‘Rafiki’, an award-winning Kenyan film about lesbian love, as well as the joy of the Coalition of African Lesbian’s granting of observer status by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) marred by the subsequent revocation.

“I catch my breath when I hear young people say it’s not their job to teach”

A lack of access to information and resources as well as positive representation and visibility of the queer community in society, were some of the considerations that Ditsie brought forward in sharing her concern for the growing aversion, by young people especially, to bringing people into the fold for learning and education about the lived realities of LGBTIQ+persons. Her concern stems from her experience with the pervasive and strategic anti-gender initiatives orchestrated by state actors and institutions of influence in different communities.

Ditsie’s conversation weaved stories of excitement and fear with those of love, loss and learning as a queer activist and filmmaker whose work resembles the same. Through curating the stories from within her community of fellow activists and changemakers, Ditsie reclaims and archives the history of lesbian women, thereby challenging the vacuum and creeping collective amnesia regarding the role of lesbians and queer people in the fight for human rights and freedoms. The participants of the conversations pitched in with reflections on her life work which highlights the rich history of lesbian activism and the intersectionality of race, class, gender, sexual orientation and location.

Ditsie concluded with a call for community principles and safer spaces, as ways of fostering self-care, which can be a way to resist and counter the hatred and anger targeted towards the LGBTIQ+ community.

“What brings me joy is finding safety in spaces, safety in community, joy is bringing your full and unapologetic self forward and knowing that ‘I am not wrong to exist, my existence is pre-ordained’”

The event served as a reminder that there is still much work to be done to ensure that all members of the LGBTIQ+ community can live in full joy and freedom.

You can read more about Bev Ditsie here:

Kindly register for the next conversation happening on 25 May here:

For more information on the Pretoria-Marburg Conversations, please contact: Naledi Mpanza:


Centre for Human Rights (CHR) and Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G) condemn the passing of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

The Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of law, University of Pretoria (CHR) and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS, and Gender, University of Pretoria (CSA&G) condemn the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by the Parliament of Uganda on 21 March 2023.

The organisations are adding their voice to the many human rights organisations and groups calling on President Yoweri Museveni not to sign the Bill into law. By exercising the Presidential right to veto the Bill as he did with the Sexual Offences Bill in 2021, President Yoweri Museveni may avoid further grievous violations of human rights against the LGBTIQ+ Community in Uganda.

The Bill is the latest reintroduction of a series of discriminatory legislation going as far back as 2009 targeting gender and sexual minorities in Uganda. In 2014, a court invalidated a previous version of the Bill for failing to meet parliamentary procedural rules. In 2021, a renewed version, titled the Sexual Offences Bill, approved by the legislature but vetoed by President Museveni on grounds that it covered offences already provided for in the Ugandan Penal Code.

The current Bill introduces new offences and is far-reaching in effect. The Bill defines a homosexual as a ‘person who engages or attempts to engage in same-gender sexual activity’ and criminalises same-sex sex, marriage, as well as the act of identifying as a member of the LGBTIQ+ community with the possibility of 10 years imprisonment or life imprisonment if read with the Penal Code. The Bill further criminalises the ‘recruitment, promotion and funding’ of homosexuality. Under the proposed statutory regime, these offences would be punishable by a fine or up to 5 years imprisonment, with ‘aggravated homosexuality’ sentencing including the death penalty and mandatory HIV testing.

Legislation of this kind is contrary to the spirit and express requirements of the Ugandan Constitution and international human rights law. Article 21 of the Ugandan Constitution provides that ALL persons are equal before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect and shall enjoy equal protection of the law. Article 29 provides for the protection of various freedoms including that of belief and conscience, expression, assembly and association. The provisions of the Bill threaten these freedoms in a way that discriminates against individuals and communities on the basis of their real or imputed sexual orientation and gender identity. And because the Bill requires friends, family and members of the community to report individuals in same-sex relationships to the authorities, it not only potentially criminalises people who do not report such relationships, it serves to break down social cohesion, requiring citizens to spy on each other, raising the spectre of blackmail, extortion, and score settling – all of which jeopardise social cohesion and further infringe on the rights of people.

Our organisations stress that human rights are universal, and that all people everywhere are entitled to equality, dignity, safety, and freedom. Human rights groups have warned that the Bill violates the rights to freedom of expression and association, privacy, equality and non-discrimination. By its very nature the Bill will also adversely impact on the right to health, access to justice and right to life of sexual and gender minorities in Uganda. Two principled Ugandan MPs have acknowledged this much, opposing the Bill on the grounds that it is ‘ill-conceived’ and ‘unconstitutional’.

The Bill will have adverse impact on the LGBTIQ+ community in Uganda who already live in fear of violence and face discrimination and other forms of human rights violations. The passage of the Bill occurs in the context of increasing hostility and persecution of sexual and gender minorities as well as human rights groups, activists, and civil society in Uganda, including the closure of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In a country and region where sexual and minorities already face stigma, discrimination and violence, the Bill would only further endanger the lives, safety and dignity of an already vulnerable and targeted group.

The CHR and CSA&G echo the statement of The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Bill is ‘a deeply troubling development’ that is ‘among the worst of its kind in the world’.

The Bill is also a departure from progressive attitudes by other African states such as Angola, Botswana, Gabon, Mozambique, Seychelles, and South Africa that have taken judicial or legislative measures to remove discriminatory criminal laws. These are in addition to the dozens of other African states that have never criminalised persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), and other international human rights instruments, Uganda is also obliged under international law to protect and safeguard the equal rights of every person without discrimination or distinction of any kind, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Article 2(1) of the ICCPR affirms the obligation of State Parties to ‘respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognised in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.’

Similarly, Article 2 of the African Charter provides that ‘Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed in the present Charter without the distinction of any kind; such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.’

The word ‘sex’ and the phrase ‘other status’ in these instruments are settled in international human rights law as inclusive of the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. For instance,

Resolution 275 of the African Commission, adopted in 2014, draws on Articles 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the African Charter (the rights to freedom from discrimination, equality, life, and dignity respectively) to spell out state obligations to protect individuals against violence and other human rights violations on the basis of their real or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity. Resolution 275 recognises sexual and gender minorities as full rights holders under the African Charter and urges states to ensure that human rights defenders work in an enabling environment that is free of stigma, reprisals or criminal prosecution as a result of their human rights protection activities, including the rights of sexual minorities.

The CHR and CSA&G call on the Ugandan government to repeal outdated, discriminatory legislation criminalising same-sex and gender diverse conduct or expression (if they have not yet done so); refrain from further criminalising individuals on the basis of their real or imputed sexual orientation and gender identity; and recognise the dangers of violence and other forms of discrimination against persons based on their real or imputed sexual orientation and gender identity as called upon in Resolution 275 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

We also call on African states and the international community to encourage Uganda to act in accordance with its human rights obligations and to protect all its citizens by rejecting the Bill.

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:

Press Statement: CSA&G and SHR, University of Pretoria, Recognise, Support and Commemorate International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) 2020

The Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G), recognise, support, and commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). This annual event, observed on May 17, is marked internationally for the recognition of LGBTIQ+ rights. In particular, it is used to raise awareness and educate the public on issues of violence, discrimination, repression, and also to call attention to the health challenges that detract from the progress and wellbeing of the LGBTIQ+ community all over the world.

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IDAHOBIT also provides the space and opportunity for dialogue and education for the community without succumbing to the gaps and divisions often created by religious, cultural, racial, and class differences. Nevertheless, it is also understood that, within the LGBTIQ+ community itself, there are often divisions between different identifying sub-communities, the kinds of challenges they confront, and the needs most pertinent to them, which inevitably create further differentiation between facets of identity.

The theme for IDAHOBIT 2020 is ‘Breaking the silence’. Across Africa, there is still an active criminalisation and discrimination agenda by state and non-state actors that continues to silence and repress LGBTIQ+ persons, and often resulting in violence, extortion, and displacement. Even in non-criminalised contexts like South Africa, there is still a real and constant social pressure on many LGBTIQ+ persons to conform to heteronormative and cis-gendered standards in order to fit into their family, learning environments, workplaces, and other social structures. LGBTIQ+ persons in Africa face unique challenges through the impact of colonial, military, and apartheid legacies that policed, silenced and attempted to erase queer LGBTIQ+ minorities in their societies.

By facilitating discussion amongst community members and allies, we can contribute to the promotion of the rights and welfare of LGBTIQ+ persons in Africa.

As part of IDAHOBIT 2020, the Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender organised and co-hosted a webinar event to commemorate the day. The webinar contributed to the discussion of this year’s theme with a focus on the unique challenges faced by LBQ women, transgender people, and gender-nonconforming persons in Africa. It featured panellists Rudo Chigudu, Lara Oriye, and Sylvester Kazibwe who are doctoral and master’s candidates at the Centre for Human Rights. Amongst other issues, panelists considered the ‘absence’ of certain conversations in the queer community and the impact of these. In this vein, themes of intimate partner violence in the community and internalised homophobia were explored. The panelists also recognised that activism is constrained by lockdowns currently in place in response to COVID-19 as human rights defenders cannot travel to defend those accused and arrested due to lockdown restrictions, access to health services and psychosocial support services has been disrupted, and mental health challenges are exacerbated for LGBTIQ+ people during this time. The audience also had the opportunity to contribute comments and ask questions.

About CSA&G

The Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G) was established in 1999 as the Centre for the Study of AIDS (CSA) initially as a standalone centre to help guide and shape the University of Pretoria’s (UP) HIV response, its engagement with communities from which staff and students are drawn and implement both service and research programmes. Hence, the CSA&G has always been able to, and continues to situate its work in both theory and practice. Since that time, the CSA&G has found an intellectual home within UP’s Faculty of Humanities but works across all nine UP faculties, support services and its Executive. The CSA&G uses an intersectional approach to sexualities, HIV and gender, promoting human rights and social justice.

About the Centre for Human Rights

The Centre for Human Rights is an academic department of the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. It doubles as a non-governmental organisation (NGO). As such, the Centre functions as a teaching and research department while also running project activities as an NGO, aimed at training, advocacy, and capacity building.  This duality makes the Centre well-placed to deal with topics that may be perceived as contentious or politically charged, such as issues around sexual orientation, gender identity, expression and sex characteristics. The Centre’s reach is within South Africa and beyond, particularly on the African continent. The Centre specialises in human rights law and human rights issues on the African continent while linking these to global human rights knowledge streams and discourses from other regions of the world.

For more information, please contact: 

Pierre Brouard
Deputy Director
Centre for Sexualitiues, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G)
University of Pretoria 

Ayodele Sogunro
Manager: SOGIESC Unit
Centre for Human Rights
University of Pretoria