Isaack, Wendy. 2009. ‘African Lesbian & Gay People – Final Destination South Africa?’ Johannesburg: Legal Resource Centre.

On 27 April 1994 South Africa’s political landscape changed drastically and permanently with the first democratic elections which ended more than three hundred years of colonial domination and by extension apartheid. After its formation in 1994, the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality (NCGLE) lobbied successfully for the retention of sexual orientation as one of the grounds of non-discrimination in the final constitution. The enactment of the 1996 constitution, with an equality clause expressly prohibiting unfair discrimination on the basis of inter alia sexual orientation was a cause for celebration for lesbian and gay people across the African continent: for the first time in history, a country was guaranteeing equality for sexual minorities in its highest law and for the first time in Africa, a country recognised the right to be free from all forms of violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as a fundamental human right. This legal guarantee is located amidst a collection of enumerated rights and basic constitutional values of human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. Over a period of ten years individual lesbian and gay activists and organised civil society successfully engaged in lobbying and advocacy challenging sexual orientation discrimination, finally culminating in the legal right to marry or to form civil partnerships in December 2006.2 Until recently, advocating for legal transformation had consistently been a significant component of the work of lesbian and gay organisations in South Africa. One of the major achievements was the inclusion of lesbian and gay foreign nationals in the Refugees Act, 130 of 1998 which provides for the granting of refugee status owing to a well-founded fear of persecution by reason of belonging to a particular social group.