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4Men - Opinions

Letters and opinions from concerned male South African citizens on current affairs and issues affecting us all

South African Homophobia

Submitted by Kirsten Smith


Annually, the 17th of May marks International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people as well as all those who do not conform to majority sexual and gender norms.

Recently, a slew of complaints were submitted to the Advertising Standards Authority following the flighting of an advertisement featuring two men of different races kissing and ending with a condom being unwrapped. These complaints highlight the level of stigmatisation and discrimination that gay and other non-gay identifying men who have sex with men (MSM) face.

The advertisement was created by, the first large scale sexual health campaign ever in South Africa to specifically address MSM - the most vulnerable population for HIV acquisition and transmission. This initiative was created by the Anova Health Institute and The Elton John AIDS Foundation with the goal of helping men who have sex with men lead healthy, sexual lives. The advertisement was designed to address prevention issues in an affirming, non-judgemental and sex-positive way that asks MSM to be brave enough to make healthy sexual choices like wearing a condom.

One complainant stated, “I am all for safe sex education, but promoting safe sex between ‘men’ is taking it a step too far.” Others spoke of the inappropriateness of “promoting” and “condoning” relationships amongst men.

According to Nina Morris-Lee, Head of Marketing at Anova Health Institute, “Clause 9 of the Bill of Rights, which is enshrined in the Constitution - the supreme law of the land – sates that ‘No person may unfairly discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone on one or more grounds...’ These grounds include sexual orientation.”

She continues, “The aim of the advertisement is not to shock, but to attract our market through creating scenarios to which they relate. With 4.9 million South Africans – 10% of the population - identifying as homosexual, this is a matter of public interest and urgency and we do not have the luxury of tip-toeing around the issues. Thus, we have exercised our right to freedom of expression contained in Clause 16 of the Bill of Rights, which states ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to receive or impart information or ideas’.”

“In light of the reactions to a same-sex kiss, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is crucial in the fight against the stigma associated with same-sex preferences. Not only is homophobia a deterrent to MSM testing for HIV, it also leads to hate crimes such as beatings, corrective rape amongst men and murder,” concludes Morris-Lee.

For more information on the campaign visit

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