A report on gay life in South Africa’s Kwazulu Natal province, which has just been released, has revealed some shocking trends. The survey says that up to 20 percent (or one in 5) LGBT teenagers have been sexually assaulted or raped.

Conducted by Pretoria’s OUT LGBT Well-being and the Durban Lesbian and Gay Health and Community and Health Center in 2005, and commissioned by the Joint Working Group (JWG) it depicts a grim reality for school pupils in Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

It shows that victimisation is more prominent among Indian and black populations. Gay males also reported a higher rate of at least verbal abuse (68%) than lesbians (42%).

“…despite having one of the most progressive Constitutions in terms of equality and human dignity for all, the social climate in South Africa, as is evident in the results …, is still largely homophobic, says the report.

One in three of those surveyed reported being physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation. Apart from being victimised by other students, 22 percent of LGBT pupils claimed to have been victimized by teachers and nine percent by principals. A small percentage of respondents also experienced victimisation at the hands of other workers at school, such as garden and / or security personnel.

Over half of those sampled said that LGBT issues had been raised in the classroom, but 73% of those said that it was raised in a negative light.

It was also found that some teenagers were refused health care by medical staff because of their sexual orientation, while other avoided engaging with the health system out of fear.

According to researcher Helen Wells, the targeting of LGBT teens is more prevalent in the province compared to other regions in the country because of the more dominant patriarchal values found there.

Almost one in five of those surveyed said that they had attempted suicide, 24% of those have made multiple attempts. The researchers have called on the authorities to offer urgent intervention at schools to protect LGBT students. A repeat study is currently being conducted in the Western Cape.

The JWG is a group of registered non-profit organisations and partners, which provide services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

It works at a national level, towards formulating a co-ordinated approach on LGBTI issues and comprises the following organisations; Behind the Mask, Durban Lesbian and Gay Community and Health Centre, Forum for the Empowerment of Women, Gay and Lesbian Archives, OUT – LGBT Well-being, Triangle Project and UNISA: Centre of Applied Psychology.

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