Last edited: February 13, 2005

South Africa Gay Sex Laws Struck Down

Associated Press, May 8, 1998

By Pat Reber

JOHANNESBURG, South AfricaA high court judge on Friday struck down apartheid-era laws against gay and lesbian sex, declaring them a violation of South Africa's new constitution.

Judge Jonathan Heher said the laws prohibiting "unnatural'' sexual acts were a relic of intolerance, ignorance and fear of what is different.

"Constitutionally we have reached a stage of maturity in which recognition of the dignity and innate worth of every member of society is not a matter of reluctant concession, but is one of easy acceptance,'' Heher said.

Gay rights advocates hailed the judgment as an indictment of South Africa's colonial past.

"Our history records the litany of South Africans who have been drowned in vats in prisons, burned at stakes, hanged on gallows, tortured and banished as punishment for expressing a sexuality that differed from a heterosexual norm,'' said Mazibuko Jara of the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality.

The coalition and the South African Human Rights Commission brought the case late last year.

South Africa adopted its new constitution in 1996, solidifying the protection of human rights promised by Nelson Mandela when he was elected president in 1994.

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