OPINION | Human Rights Day: Standing shoulder to shoulder for the rights of LGBTQIA+

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
A woman is seen walking at the LGBTQI pride event and waving rainbow flag.
A woman is seen walking at the LGBTQI pride event and waving rainbow flag.
PHOTO: Mixmike, Getty Images

The legal situation in Mexico, South Africa, and Germany when it comes to LGBTQIA+ rights sometimes stands in stark contrast with the reality experienced by our fellow citizens. Societal acceptance is still lagging behind the legal status, writes the Mexican Ambassador to South Africa, Sara Valdés Bolaño and the German Ambassador to South Africa, Andreas Peschke.

On Tuesday we celebrate Human Rights Day in remembrance of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. This day of commemoration serves two purposes. Firstly, to honour the brave protesters who resisted the cruelties of the apartheid regime and to celebrate South Africa's achievements in granting human rights post-apartheid. Secondly, Human Rights Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on where there still are shortcomings in the protection of human rights and to show solidarity with those who are not yet able to enjoy their rights fully. 

Germany and Mexico currently have the privilege of chairing the Equal Rights Coalition together. This intergovernmental body of 42 member states is dedicated to the protection of the rights of LGBTQIA+ persons. So on Tuesday, we, the Ambassadors of Mexico and Germany to South Africa, would like to take this Human Rights Day as an opportunity to highlight the situation of the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, gay, bi-, trans-intersexual, queer) communities worldwide.

READ | LGBTQ rights across the globe: marriage to the death penalty

The United Nations has repeatedly confirmed that discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics violates international human rights law. However, over 76 countries worldwide criminalise adult same-sex relationships. In eight of them, same-sex relations are even punishable by death. Often, cultural reasons are brought forward as an argument. It is the essence of the universality of human rights, however, that each and every human being is endowed with equal human rights simply by virtue of being human – regardless of the country they live in and regardless of their personal status or any particular individual characteristics. 

SA's progressive path

After overcoming apartheid, South Africa took a very progressive path to become a regional and global role model in terms of human rights. The Constitution was the world's first to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. At the time, South Africa was only the fifth country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. To this date, South Africa still is the only African country to do so. South Africa later launched the first-ever resolution in the UN against discrimination based on sexual orientation, together with Brazil. 

READ | SA's 'beautiful laws' fail LGBTQ+ migrants fleeing persecution

Mexico and Germany have progressed in their LGBTQIA+ legislations shortly afterwards, in the 2000s. The legal situation in Mexico, South Africa, and Germany, however, sometimes stands in stark contrast with the reality experienced by our fellow citizens. Societal acceptance is still lagging behind the legal status. LGBTQIA+ persons still often suffer from homophobic violence, such as "corrective rape" on lesbians. Globally, we observe discrimination, hatred, high rates of intense violence, even murder. This goes along with high rates of HIV and AIDS, societal stigmatisation and a lack of public health education. All of these problems demand joint global action across continents.

The Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) was formed for exactly this reason in 2016. In thematic groups, the ERC works closely with civil society as well as with stakeholders on different governance levels and sectors. As current co-chairs, Mexico and Germany want to use this format to bring forward the discussion on measures needed to protect and advance LGBTQIA+ rights.

Mexico and Germany are proud to know a champion of LGBTQIA+ rights like South Africa by our sides. We invite the South African society to join our efforts in working towards a world where every nation recognises, promotes and protects the human rights of LGBTQIA+ persons. Together, we can learn from each other how to best address the ongoing challenges. In doing so, we attempt to put into practice the joint commitment of all UN member states as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 1, first sentence: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

Sara Valdés Bolaño, Mexican Ambassador to South Africa, and Andreas Peschke, German Ambassador to South Africa.

*Want to respond to the columnist? Send your letter or article to with your name and town or province. You are welcome to also send a profile picture. We encourage a diversity of voices and views in our readers' submissions and reserve the right not to publish any and all submissions received.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Voting Booth
Do you think the wardens deployed across Gauteng will make a dent in curbing crime?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
No, proper policing is needed
79% - 3401 votes
Yes, anything will help at this point
21% - 887 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.