South Africa’s not the promised land for gay refugees?

On a continent where 38 out of 54 countries criminalize homosexuality–and four punish it with death–South Africa stands apart. Not only is same-sex marriage recognized, it also has protections against discrimination written into its constitution.

So it’s no wonder that a large number of refugees from across the continent have sought refuge in the country. But a new report from the  group People Against Suffering, Oppression, and Poverty finds that life isn’t so great for these people in South Africa, either.

“The official legal stance towards LGBTI persons in South Africa is one of the most progressive globally… However despite these egalitarian forward-thinking measures of law, public sentiment does not always match up,” the report finds. It documents:

On one hand, the report indicates that one of the two main reasons for unemployment for many of LGBTI refugees is discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Further, 51% of unemployment is due to the lack of documentation, which is the second main reason. This statistic reveals that most still have issues with the Department of Home Affairs with regards to their expired documents, temporary permits and the mass delays by DHA officials in addressing their claim.

The report indicates that it remains difficult for LGBTI refugees to find jobs even among some gay-friendly businesses, such as clubs, restaurants, or hotels. While some of these businesses do not have vacant positions, other owners simply outright refuse to hire an employee who is black, a refugee and gay or transgender. The access to some gays clubs and restaurants where they could socialize themselves to other LGBTI South African citizen are exclusive and sometimes expensive because many LGBTI Refugees and asylum seekers cannot afford the access to these places.

Read the full report at PASSOP’s website.


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