Home Institution

Washington University in St. Louis

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Program Name

South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights


The South African government has made vast strides in the fight for LGBT equality, strides that are unparalleled by any other nation on the African continent. Unfortunately, the lack of hate crime legislation within the country—as well as the government’s unwillingness to address the nation’s resulting violence—often overshadows the accomplishments that have been made over the last few years. Keeping in mind that “[f]eminist research goals foster empowerment and emancipation for women and other marginalized groups, and feminist researchers often apply their findings in the service of promoting social justice for women,” we can see how the LGBT community is often one of these “marginalized groups” associated with feminist research (Brooks and Hesse-Biber 2007: 4). Although nearly all individuals within the LGBT community face some level of societal pressure and discrimination, this project is primarily concerned with the perceptions of gay and lesbian Capetonians regarding their feelings of safety and security living in South Africa and the political and social norms that influence such perceptions. Consequently, I have used my research project to explore the gap that seems to exist between the expectations created by the South African government’s LGBT-inclusive constitutional protections and policies and the reality of the LGBT individual’s lived experience. By working directly with Cape Town’s LGBT population through a series of informal interviews, I feel I have gained a better insight into what it is like to be a LGBT person living in Cape Town amid an international movement to advance LGBT rights. This insight has laid the foundations for me to argue that the South African government’s seeming interest in LGBT rights is misleading and shaped by the heteronormativity that has emerged as a staple of contemporary culture’s discourse on issues of sexuality. Under the guidance of Shifra Jacobson, my approach has allowed me to work alongside current advocates and community workers to help facilitate a public discourse about how to address the nation’s human rights abuses more effectively. Perhaps more importantly, it has provided me with the Sasse 4 unique opportunity to challenge heteronormative social rules and ideologies that silence the experiences of the marginalized, a cornerstone of feminist and queer research.


Civic and Community Engagement | Civil Rights and Discrimination | Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality | Human Rights Law | Inequality and Stratification | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Sexuality and the Law | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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