South Africa: The Religious Fig Leaf That Conceals the Justification of Hate Crimes Against the LGBTQ Community


Over the past few weeks, at least seven gay men and lesbians have been brutally murdered in South Africa in what appears to have been homophobic hate crimes. This statistic does not begin to capture the magnitude of the hate and violence faced by some LGBTQ people in South Africa. This homophobic and transphobic hate (if not always the violence that flows from it) is often justified on religious grounds. But religious beliefs can never justify homophobia and transphobia. It is time for religious leaders and all believers to reject the use of religion to justify bigotry.

We do not know how many LGBTQ people are violently attacked or murdered in South Africa each year in homophobic or transphobic hate crimes. The South African Police Service (SAPS) does not keep statistics on hate crimes, and even if it did, many homophobic and transphobic hate crimes would not be classified as such because of the reluctance of the authorities to acknowledge the homophobic and transphobic motivation behind many of these attacks. (Similarly, authorities seem to be reluctant to acknowledge that attacks on many foreigners are fuelled by xenophobia.)

We do know that several LGBTQ individuals have been brutally murdered over the...

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