OUT alarmed by Jacob Zuma’s assault on marriage equality rights.
OUT LGBT Well-being expresses deep disappointment and concern over the apparent campaign by disgraced former President Jacob Zuma to roll back the hard-fought rights of same-sex couples to marry in South Africa.
The Sunday Times recently reported that Zuma attacked the right to marriage equality earlier this month during a campaign address in Pietermaritzburg, where he spoke to over 3,000 supporters of his uMkhonto weSizwe party, set to contest this year’s elections.
Zuma claimed to have been approached by a tribal leader critical of the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Zuma then allegedly told the crowd that he believes this legalisation occurred undemocratically and lacked support from the majority of South Africans.
“That is why I was being called by the tribal authority. If we win as a party, we would change the repressive laws which are anti-democratic. If this law was brought before people, do you think it would have passed?” he was quoted as saying.
This isn’t the first time Zuma has expressed opposition to marriage equality. In 2006, he labelled same-sex marriage as “a disgrace to the nation and to God,” stating, “When I was growing up, unqingili [‘homosexuals’] could not stand in front of me. I would have knocked him out.”
While Zuma later claimed his comments were misinterpreted and apologised, his recent alleged remarks cast doubt on the sincerity of that apology.
Dawie Nel, Executive Director of OUT LGBT Well-being, expressed concern, saying, “It is truly troubling that a South African leader who fought against the oppression of the apartheid state is now campaigning to erase the rights of some of its citizens.”
“If he’s been quoted correctly, Jacob Zuma’s comments suggest that his understanding of our democracy and Constitution leaves much to be desired. We urge him to stand by the words of his 2006 apology in which he stated that ‘Our Constitution clearly states that nobody should be discriminated against on many grounds including sexual orientation, and I uphold and abide by the Constitution of our land,'” continued Nel.
OUT calls on uMkhonto weSizwe and all political parties contesting the 2024 elections to affirm the equal rights and dignity of all South Africans and refrain from exploiting and targeting vulnerable minorities, such as the LGBTIQ+ community, for cheap political gain.
Same-sex marriage was made legal in South Africa with the enactment of the Civil Union Act in 2006 which was prompted by the unanimous judgment of the Constitutional Court that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. This achievement was the culmination of a resolute marriage equality campaign led by human rights groups, including OUT, and made South Africa the fifth country in the world at that time to recognise same-sex marriage.
Founded in 1994, OUT LGBT Well-being is a registered NPO that that provides HIV and other health and empowerment services to MSM and LGBTIQ+ communities. It also advocates for LGBTIQ+ equality and works to eradicate stigma, discrimination, and hate crimes.
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