South Africa Court Upholds Gay Rights
Associated Press, October 9, 1998
By Pat Reber
JOHANNESBURG, South AfricaSouth Africas highest court
today struck down apartheid-era laws banning homosexual sex, ruling that men charged or
convicted of sodomy since 1994 could demand monetary damages and that their criminal
records be cleared.
Gay rights have been protected since the 1994 provisional constitution paved the way
for a final document approved in 1996. South Africa was the first country to ban
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in its constitution.
But the laws that criminalized sex between men remained until todays court
Sex between women was never officially banned but was stigmatized by extension, the
court said. It upheld an earlier ruling that the sodomy law was illegal.
"Gay men who have been persecuted for hundreds of years in this country now have
the right to (file) claims from the state," said Zackie Achmat, director of the
National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality, which sought the ruling.
Under apartheid, sodomy could be punished with up to seven years in prison. Men were
not allowed to have casual contact at social gatherings that could be construed as
The former South African military practiced "aversion therapy" on gay
men, giving electric shocks to victims while they viewed images of naked men, a report on
human rights abuses released last year said.
Since the first all-race election ended apartheid in 1994, President Nelson
Mandelas government has pushed to end all forms of discrimination.
The countrys military protects the rights of gay and lesbian soldiers. Earlier
this year, the police were ordered to include a lesbian partner under one of its female
officers medical insurance.
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