South Africa - 
Article published the Tuesday 22 March 2011 - Latest update : Tuesday 22 March 2011

SA gay activists say government rats on constitution

The logo of South Africa's Lesbian and Gay Equality Project

By Alex Duval Smith

South African supporters of gay rights claim their government has broken the country's constitution by failing to support a United Nations motion condemning violence against homosexuals.

Gay activists were watching closely on Monday when the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva passed a joint statement on ending violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation.

Despite intense last-minute lobbying by campaigners - and apparent concession in their favour from the government last week - yesterday's Geneva statement did not have South Africa's name on it.

The development marks a setback for gays and lesbians in South Africa. Since 1994, their rights have been enshrined in the constitution. Gay marriage is recognised and violence against homosexuals is considered a hate crime.

Yet there are few convictions and campaigners report rising violence being met with indifference by the authorities.

The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project is this week expected to launch a case in the South African constitutional court to force the government to align its foreign policy with the constitution.

They believe the government's climbdown in Geneva is the result of pressure from China and the rest of the African group - to whom South Africa is looking for support in its bid to win a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

tags: Constitution - Gay rights - Human rights - South Africa - United Nations
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