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It’s very easy to get caught up in race relations in South Africa, and very rightly so.

Racial discrimination is deeply rooted in the country’s history and persists in modern society. It’s also the first thing you think about when you think of South Africa and apartheid because it was/is so prevalent. However, something I’ve found interesting, since arriving in Cape Town and beginning my work at the Hate Crimes Working Group (HCWG), is how other aspects of people’s identities were affected by apartheid as well as how those characteristics still pose as a challenge for people today. I’ve been able to learn more about this through a series of blog posts that Kristina, Lenae, and I have been working on called the Spotlight Series. The point of these blog posts is to shed light on the different groups of people who are targets of hate crimes — who they are, past discrimination they have faced, statistics of violence committed against them, etc.

The group that I’m currently researching and writing about is the LGBTI community in South Africa. While I know that sexual orientation is still a difficult topic for people to be able to speak about and accept, even in the U.S., I was surprised to discover the role it played in history and apartheid, and the role it plays in current day. Through my research, I discovered that there were different laws put in place against homosexuality during apartheid. While reading about the history of LGBT legislation in South Africa online, I learned that the Immorality Act of 1957, and its later amendments, essentially outlawed homosexuality in public places. In 1968 a proposed amendment tried to make homosexuality illegal, and even though it didn’t pass, another amendment was passed that moved gay culture indoors and away from the public, creating the taboo culture surrounding homosexuality that can be seen in society today.

Beyond legislation, the LGBTI community faced much violence, with homosexual men and women in military being subject to violence, such as electric shock therapy, imprisonment, public humiliation, and beatings. Corrective rape was used on lesbian women as a way to try to “fix” them and make them straight. Men were arrested in a raid in 1966 for dressing up as women and participating in “indecent activity.”

You would think, because times have changed and people are becoming more accepting and open-minded in today’s society, that all of this hatred would have changed. But it has not.

In a survey called Hate Crimes Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People in South Africa, 2016 done and conducted by the Love Not Hate Campaign and OUT LGBT respectively, it became abundantly clear how serious the issue of discrimination of LGBTI people still is in South Africa today. The initiative exposed shocking statistics, like how 41% of those surveyed knew of someone who had been murdered due to their sexual orientation and 91% of females are unlikely to report any incidences to the police. These are only two of the many other discoveries made by this research. Other statistics gathered by OUT showed that South Africans seem to be becoming more homophobic, with 14% of Gauteng residents in 2015 claiming it’s acceptable to be violent to gay and lesbian people compared to the 13% in 2013. Only 56% of respondents in this survey felt that LGBTI people deserved equal rights.

While initially all of these statistics did come as a shock, the cynical part of me reared its head and wasn’t as surprised by the hatred that people still feel towards others different from them. Getting a notification on my phone on Friday that German lawmakers voted to legalize same sex marriage, while uplifting, was a reminder that these ideals and laws should already be a part of our society. We shouldn’t necessarily be celebrating that another country has come to their senses and legalized same sex marriage because people of the same sex should be able to do what they please. It shows the world is not where it should be when it comes to equal rights for all of humanity. And this is just the case for the LGBT community, let alone for all of the other minority groups who are not being treated equally or fairly around the world.

There are so many different aspects of South African society that still have a long ways to go, besides race relations and continued discrimination resulting from apartheid. My work at HCWG has shown me that, and while it is disheartening to see the hate that people face today, I look forward to continuing to learn more about human rights.