n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Exploring homophobic victimisation in Gauteng, South Africa : issues, impacts and responses

Volume 21, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Post-apartheid South Africa was founded on democratic values, and a constitution that enshrines the principles of human dignity, equality, and social justice. In stark contrast with constitutional guarantees of freedom and human rights for all, research indicates that homophobic victimisation is an endemic part of the South African landscape. Crimes motivated by prejudice ('hate crimes') are not recognised as a separate crime category in current legislation. Research conducted in Gauteng province illuminates the nature and prevalence of prejudice-motivated hate speech and victimisation against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people. These research findings, based on self-reported data, indicate a disconcertingly high prevalence of homophobic discrimination. The findings confirm that higher levels of 'outness', integration into lesbian and gay communities and challenging patriarchal gender roles, are all linked to increased rates of certain forms of homophobic victimisation. The relationship between gender presentation and vulnerability to victimisation points to the highly gendered nature of homophobic discrimination. Whilst existing policy frameworks within the ambit of the National Victim Empowerment Programme go some way in addressing homophobic discrimination, service provider deprioritisation, marginalisation, exclusion and targeted victimisation, are everyday realities in many communities. This is especially true for those who are perceived to differ from, or challenge, social and gender norms. The lack of targeted strategies to address LGBT discrimination negatively impact on the extent to which the criminal justice system and other service delivery agents can adequately respond. Hate crimes in South Africa require specific approaches in terms of legislative and policy responses. This paper considers possible multi-leveled measures to address hate crime both within the criminal justice system and in shaping appropriate service delivery responses more broadly. In particular, the paper explores homophobic discrimination in South Africa; highlights pertinent issues and impacts of sexual orientation-based hate victimisation; and considers contextually and historically appropriate remedies in this regard.

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