The General Council of the Bar of South Africa (GCB) on Monday said that while the South African government acknowledges and respects everyone's rights in the country, it will not follow the UN and the US, who have criticised laws against gay people in Africa. GCB said it has noted with concern recent reports of state-sanctioned intolerance of gay people around the continent.
“Our Constitution, which entrenches human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms as well as non-sexism as core values, implores the Government to uphold and respect such values, not only domestically, but also internationally,” said GCB chairman Ishmael Semenya.
He noted that nobody should be punished or discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or association.
“South Africa is rightly seen as a beacon of hope for the advancement and protection of human rights around the world - including the rights of gay, lesbian, transgendered and intersex people,” he added.
Homosexuality has become a burning issue around the continent, most notably in Nigeria which is leading the campaign against gays by tightening laws and allowing Islamic courts to punish homosexuals.
Although homosexuality is already a crime in the west African country, new legislation provides for a sentence of 10 years for people who own gay clubs or belong to gay organisations.
The issue is also under the spotlight in Uganda where British man Bernard Randall who was facing charges in Uganda of possessing a gay sex video is to be deported and in neighbouring Malawi, where the country’s top court is considering an appeal of the conviction of three men who are serving long jail terms for homosexual acts.