The Love Not Hate campaign has reacted with shock at new statistics that show a sharp increase in homophobia in South Africa’s most populous province.
On Tuesday, the 2015 Gauteng City-Region Observatory Quality of Life Survey revealed that 14% of Gautengers agree that it’s acceptable to be violent to gay and lesbian people.
That represents around 1.26 million people in the province, and reflects an increase from 13% in 2013.
Equally shocking, only 56% of respondents felt that gays and lesbians deserve equal rights. This is a significant drop compared to 2013, when 71% agreed with the statement.
The results have emerged as South Africa faces continued incidents of violent hate crimes against LGBTI people and growing anti-LGBTI intolerance and hate speech on social media.
Yet, as the country (rightly) speaks out against racism, it appears that these increasing levels of homophobia are not being addressed by our society with the same passion and energy. These latest statistics have also barely been reported by the mainstream media.
Lerato Phalakatshela, Hate Crime Manager at OUT LGBT Well-being and spokesperson for the Love Not Hate campaign, commented on the shocking survey results in a statement on Thursday.
“These findings are heartbreaking because they show just how vulnerable we are as LGBTI people in our own communities, simply for who we are and who we love,” he said.
Phalakatshela continued: “It is evident that there is still a lot of work to be done with regard to tackling discrimination and hate crimes against LGBTI people. It is also clear that South Africa in general is a very homophobic nation and this might be because people have limited or no information about human sexuality, gender identity and sexual minorities.
“The work that has been undertaken by both government and civil society to tackle homophobia appears to have had little impact on the general population. This requires urgent and more integrated and consistent interventions and improved awareness campaigns,” he added.
Love Not Hate called on government, civil society, religious leaders, political parties, the media and individuals “to speak out loudly against the scourge of LGBTI intolerance and to urgently devise new strategies that will succeed in changing hearts and minds”.
“The situation is worsening and cannot be allowed to continue; the very lives of LGBTI people are at stake,” Phalakatshela added.
Love Not Hate is a collaboration between seven South African civil society organisations in Gauteng, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal.
The programme works with government and other partners to bring awareness about LGBTI hate crimes to the public and service providers. This includes assisting LGBTI persons to report incidents of violence and to navigate the justice system, as well as tracking hate crimes.
The Love Not Hate partners are: Access Chapter 2; Durban Lesbian and Gay Community and Health Centre; Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (Gala); Gay and Lesbian Network; OUT LGBTI Well-being; Social, Health and Empowerment Feminist Collective of Transgender Women of Africa (SHE); and Triangle Project.