LGBTIQ political participation in South Africa

The rights, the real, and the representation

Authored by: Jennifer Smout (Thorpe)

Routledge Handbook of Queer African Studies

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138503472
eBook ISBN: 9781351141963
Adobe ISBN:


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Over the past two decades, the global movement towards increasing the representation of women in governments, as well as the representation of ethnic and other minorities, has been premised upon the goals of enhancing democratic ideals. The assumption has been that increased representation of these groups will also increase the representation of issues that affect their lives within public policy in addition to lending legitimacy to specific concerns. However, until recently, little attention has been paid to increasing the representation of sexual and gender minorities within the public sphere and policy. Yet, the “need to represent the communit[ies] at risk becomes more pressing” (Reynolds 2013, 1), given the context of global homophobia and transphobia and their mobilization in political processes such as national election campaigns. Arguably, given the politicization of non-heteronormative sexuality in Africa, instances of homophobia and transphobia are expected to be noticed in the public sphere, including in a country such as South Africa. Despite significant legislative progress since 1994, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, and queer (henceforth LGBTIQ) persons continue to face barriers including discriminatory attitudes and violence that operate as deterrent to full political participation in South Africa. But, contrary to expectation given persistent socio-economic discriminations under a progressive constitution, LGBTIQ persons have been courageous in demanding and asserting full political participation in South Africa.

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