South Africa's Johannesburg
High Court struck down several laws that ban gay sex May 8. The court said
the common-law crimes of sodomy and unnatural sexual offenses and section
20A of the Sexual Offences Act ("two men at a party") violated the nation's
post-apartheid constitution, the only constitution in the world that includes
a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation. "Constitutionally
we have reached a stage of maturity in which recognition of the dignity
and innate worth of every member of society is not a matter of reluctant
concession, but is one of easy acceptance," wrote Judge Jonathan Heher.
"[To penalize a person] for the expression of his or her sexuality can
only be defended from a standpoint which depends on the baneful influences
of religious intolerance, ignorance, superstition, bigotry, fear of what
is different from or alien to everyday experience and the millstone of
history." The laws were challenged by the National Coalition for
Gay and Lesbian Equality and the South African Human Rights Commission.
In its response to the victory,
the Coalition said: "The manner in which individuals choose naturally to
share their most intimate expressions of affection will no longer be of
interest to the law. ... The judgment stands as a sombre indictment of
our intolerant colonial past. During the major part of the 350 years during
which these common-law offences were part of our law in South Africa, they
carried the ultimate penalty of death. Our history records the litany of
South Africans who have been drowned in vats in prisons, burned at stakes,
hanged on gallows, tortured and banished as punishment for expressing a
sexuality that differed from a heterosexual norm. The silent suffering
of those who have been executed must stand as a constant reminder of the
vagaries of intolerance and blind prejudice that use religion as a justification."
The ruling African National Congress welcomed the decision as well, saying:
"The judgement represents a significant milestone in the alignment of South
Africa's laws with the basic human rights contained in the Constitution's
Bill of Rights. It is a victory for the values and freedoms on which our
Constitution is founded and which underpin our fledgling democracy. It
stands as a challenge to all South Africans to tackle the prejudices and
misconceptions which enabled such legislation to exist intact for so many
years, and which continue to pervade our society."
The ruling covers only Gauteng
province in which Johannesburg is located. Last August, a similar ruling
decriminalized gay sex in Western Cape province where Cape Town is located.
South Africa has nine provinces.
Gay Soccer Star Commits Suicide
Openly gay former British
soccer star Justin
Fashanu, 36, committed suicide May 3 after fleeing to London from the
U.S. state of Maryland where he was wanted for alleged sexual assault on
a 17-year-old male. The first black soccer player in Britain to be
paid 1 million pounds (US$1.66 million), Fashanu was charged April 3 with
assault and sexual assault after the teen said he awoke to find Fashanu
having sex with him following a beer and pot party at Fashanu's apartment
in Ellicott City, Md. The teenager's claim that the two had sex was corroborated
by a medical exam, according to court documents. If convicted, Fashanu
could have been jailed for 20 years.
In a letter found beside
his body, Fashanu said the sex had been consensual: "I want to say that
I did never and have never sexually assaulted that young man. Yes we did
have a relationship of mutual consent but the next day he demanded money
off me. When I said no, he said, 'You wait and see.' ... The first I heard
that I was a fugitive was when I turned on the television news. I realized
that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more
embarrassment to my family and my friends. ... I hear you say, 'Well why
run if you're innocent?' Well justice isn't always fair. Silly thing really,
but you know what happens when you panic." Fashanu had been in Maryland
to coach a new minor-league soccer team.
Contributing to this week's
report: Max Mejia, Pete Toogood.
Rex Wockner's weekly international
news reports dating back to May 1994 can be searched at http://www.wockner.com.
The reports in their original form are archived at http://www.qrd.org/qrd/www/world/wockner.html,
which also archives Wockner's Quote Unquote column and some of his longer