Wednesday, November 15, 2006

South Africa ends anti-gay apartheid

(Crossposted from my other blog)

Yesterday, the South African parliament passed a bill that authorized same-sex state marriage. It becomes the first country in Africa and only one of a handful in the world to do so.

That it did so is unsurprising for two reasons. Last year, the country's high court ruled that the definition of marriage was unconstitutional. The South African constitution explicitly bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, the only constitution in the world to do so.

Furthermore, South Africa is governed by the African National Congress. The primary reason the ANC was formed was to fight against irrational bigotry. The movement spent decades combatting institutionalized, state-sponsored discrimination so that it would take this position is in continuing with its historic positions in favor of equal rights for all citizens.

Equal rights for gays are regularly denounced as a western concept. In the US, when someone doesn't have a real argument, they call a person or idea 'anti-American.' In Africa, when someone doesn't have a real argument, they use the generic insult 'un-African.' As though any one person has the singular right to define what is truly American or African.

Gay rights advocates contend that same-sex relationships were present in African cultures long before the arrival of westerners. It wasn't until the colonizers passed repressive anti-gay laws that there was a problem. In other words, homosexuality is not un-African. Homophobia is.

The questionably named African Christian Democratic Party's leader took a page out of Pat Robertson's book, insisting that those who voted in favor of equal rights for gays would face divine wrath.

While a government in 'backwards' Africa will legalize gay marriage, the president of 'civilized' America wants a constitutional amendment banning it.

South Africa isn't the only country in the world where 'traditionalists' oppose equal treatment by the government for all citizens.

Pakistan's national assembly recently voted to strengthen protections for women in the country's rape laws. Under old law, rape victims had to have four male witnesses to the crime - if not they faced prosecution for adultery.

Something which of course made it virtually impossible to prosecute such crimes.

In other words, if a women were raped in private or in small groups, she was punished for her crime of being a victim of violence.

Much like South Africa's pseudo-religious moralists, Pakistan's religious parties predicted the apocalypse. In true bizarro world fashion, one leader predicted that the 'bill will turn Pakistan into a free-sex zone.'

Even though the reality would be the opposite, since sex via rape would actually be punished.

I don't oppose tradition. I'm actually a fairly conservative person in my personal conduct. I believe you shouldn't just snap your fingers and change things simply for the purpose of doing what happens to be in vogue at the current time. There's enough of that going around in my town, people believing that change and progress are inherently synonymous. That's why we have representative democracy instead of direct democracy. Any social change should be the result of thorough discussion, otherwise it will not last, nor will it run deep. You can't legislate how people feel (though you can legislate how the government should act). But that doesn't mean that nothing should ever change.

There was a time when 'tradition' forbade marriages between people of different 'races' (ie: skin color). There was a time when 'tradition' forbade women from voting. Neither were considered full-fledged American citizens for a long time. Maybe anti-gay bigotry and small group rapes are the 'traditions' that are long overdue to be challenged.


At 1:44 PM, Blogger Yzerfontein said...

It was a brave move of the ANC to end the anti-gay apartheid nevertheless...if it came to the vote in South African it is quite possible that a majority would be against gay marriage.


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