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HRW report: lesbians and transgender men face discrimination in South Africa

Lesbians and transgender men in South Africa face discrimination and fear violence on a daily basis from both private individuals and government officials, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF; press release] on Monday. The report argues that the government has failed to protect lesbians and transgender men under the "equality clause" [text] of the South African Bill of Rights. The report recommends that government publicly denounce gender-based violence, increase awareness of the Bill of Rights' equality clause and policies of nondiscrimination and decrease barriers to prosecuting cases of sexual and physical violence based on gender orientation:

South Africa already has in place many laws and policies to address sexual violence and discrimination; what is sorely lacking is effective implementation of those provisions. It is incumbent upon the South African government to take immediate steps to honor its promise of equality, non-discrimination, and a life of dignity for lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transgender people; failing to do so betrays the constitution, imperiling the rights of all South Africans.
HRW also urged the UN and African Union to support South Africa's efforts and to ensure the country meets its obligations under international law.

In June South Africa introduced the "Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity" resolution [JURIST report] which was passed by the UN Human Rights Council [official website]. South Africa was the only African nation to vote for the passage of the resolution. The UN has faced difficulty passing resolutions on gay rights issues, due to no international consensus on the morality of homosexuality. Last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called for countries around the world to abolish laws discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals [JURIST report]. Two years ago, the UN passed a gay rights declaration [text, PDF], which the US signed and sponsored [JURIST report]. The declaration, a nonbinding measure that does not have the full force of a resolution, called on states to end criminalization and persecution of homosexuals. This declaration was recalled by the new resolution. Although 85 countries signed the declaration [US Ambassador statement], 57 countries, primarily in Africa and the Middle East, signed an opposing statement. The year before, the UN General Assembly [official website] was divided over the issue of decriminalizing homosexuality [JURIST report] as 66 nations signed a statement calling for decriminalization, and nearly 60 nations signed an opposing statement. As of the 2011 International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) [advocacy website] State-Sponsored Homophobia report [text, PDF], 76 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships, and five enforce the death penalty against homosexuals.

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