In all of South Africa, it is Cape Town which has grown to be known for being a safe haven for gays. In fact, many have begun to fondly call it Gay Cape Town because of the many gay-friendly facilities, establishments, and overall acceptance for gay rights.
Unfortunately, the mood is not unanimous. Cape Town has its share of anti-gay advocates who feel betrayed that their city. Last 2012, a murder took place which authorities have tagged as a hate crime against gays. The victim, South African Thapelo Makutle or Tha Bling as he preferred to be called was almost beheaded inside his room. He was a winner in the Miss Gay Kuruman pageant and died on the same year he was crowned.
In another incident a lesbian who was also an activist was gang raped, stabbed repeatedly, and then stoned to death near Johannesburg.
While South Africa is one of the countries that accepted same sex marriage and was one of the pioneers in the sexual revolution for gay rights, the incidents of hate crime have not abated especially in Northern Cape. According to human right advocates, there is an average of 10 cases of hate crimes against gays committed in Cape Town alone. They are labeled as “corrective crimes” and authorities appear to be divided about how to address the problem.
Yet in spite of all these hate crimes and antagonism towards gays, Cape Town continues to attract many gays. It is in this city that they feel at home and with people who are compassionate towards them if not one of them. In fact, it is not illegal to practice your sexual orientation or live it openly in South Africa. This is a stark contrast to other African countries including countries in Asia, Russia and the Middle East which could cause a person to be attacked for being openly gay.
The Gay Rights Campaign
The gay rights campaign initiative of the United Nations was launched last July in Cape Town. The UN chose Cape Town and South Africa mainly because of the amiable environment of Cape Town towards gays and lesbians. The campaign dubbed “Free & Equal” will be launched in all countries where the UN has representatives. It aims to establish the natural rights of the LGBTI or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people. In other African countries there is resentment that South Africa has allied itself with western attitudes, describing the campaign as non-native to the African region.
The aims of the gay rights campaign are:
- Public acceptance globally of gay rights
- Reduce discrimination
- Inspire people to talk freely about gay rights
The methods to be used by the UN in promoting the gay rights campaign are through the Internet, public service announcements, videos, social media, fact sheets, and speaking engagements using celebrities as speakers.
In Africa, the UN has a staunch supporter with Archbishop Desmond Tutu who is now retired. Tutu was a primary opponent to discrimination during the Apartheid Period and the rule of the white. He said recently that he would rather “go to the other place” than to a homophobic heaven.