South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned discrimination against LGBTI people, making him one of the few national leaders in Africa to do so.
On Monday, Ramaphosa delivered the Eighth Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture in Cape Town. In the speech, he addressed the many challenges facing South Africans, including widespread economic and social inequality.
He also spoke out in support of human rights for all, saying that ending gender based violence “is fundamental to our vision of a society in which all have equal rights and an equal expectation of being able to exercise them.”
Ramaphosa continued: “It is for this reason too that we cannot tolerate discrimination against any person on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The violation of the rights and equal worth of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people demeans our common humanity as South Africans,” the president said to enthusiastic applause.
“Not only does it expose individuals to pain, suffering and even violence, but it often limits access to social services and economic opportunities for LGBTI people in our country.
“It is not possible to build a just and equal society in such circumstances. It is our responsibility to dedicate every moment to eradicating all forms of racism, of sexism, of tribalism, homophobia and other intolerances,” said Ramaphosa.
Unlike Ramaphosa, South Africa’s former president, Jacob Zuma, will be remembered for opposing same-sex marriage and famously stating in 2006 that if a gay person stood in front of him he “would knock him out”.
Homosexuality is illegal in around 36 countries in Africa. South Africa is the the only one on the continent to offer its citizens marriage equality.