SOUTH AFRICA
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LGBT+ Business Climate Score

Out Leadership’s snapshot of the current state of affairs for LGBT+ people, through the lens of international business. The Business Climate Score score is out of ten possible points, and is based on ten independently verifiable indicators of the legal, cultural and business context for LGBT+ people.

8.5
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1.
Are consensual homosexual acts between adults legal?
1
Yes
2.
Are marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples available?
1
Yes, marriage equality was legalized in 2006
3.
Is being LGBT+ punishable by death?
1
No
4.
Are sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment prohibited?
1
Yes, in both the constitution and in Chapter II of the Employment Equity Act
5.
Can transgender people legally change their gender markers?
1
Yes
6.
Is sex reassignment surgery at birth for intersex children prohibited?
0
No
7.
Are sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the provision of goods and services prohibited?
1
Yes
8.
Is there a US State Department warning against travel for LGBT+ individuals?
1
No
9.
Do companies sponsor Pride?
0.5
Yes, but many larger South African corporations are reluctant to do so because Pride is seen by many as racially divisive
10.
Are there laws prohibiting freedom of assembly or speech for LGBT+ people (i.e. “anti-propaganda laws”, media gags, etc)?
1
No
Talking Points
  • There’s a big gap between the legal situation for LGBT+ people in South Africa and their lived experience – violence and discrimination is still commonplace, and attitudes toward sexual and gender difference are still quite split, despite the fact that discrimination against LGBT+ people is banned constitutionally.
  • If cultural attitudes toward LGBT+ people improved in South Africa, it would improve my ability to send diverse talent there, and otherwise invest in the economy.
  • Employers in South Africa have a legal responsibility under the Employment Equity Act to remove all forms of discrimination experienced by LGBT+ employees in their workplace and, under the Occupational Health Act, to create a safe working environment.
  • But those protections don’t extend beyond the workplace: 35% of hate crimes in South Africa are reported by LGBT+ people, according to a report by the Hate Crimes Working Group spanning 2013-2017. Violence including “corrective rape” and assault is common. Cultural homophobia must be addressed to make it feasible for me to ask top LGBT+ talent to relocate there.
  • Recent estimates show that the “Pink Rand” – LGBT+ buying power in South Africa – is around $11 billion.
  • Assuming conservative estimates that 4-6% of the general population identifies as LGBT, there are between 2.2 million and 3.4 million LGBT+ people in South Africa. If the government cracks down on cultural homophobia and hate crimes, millions of LGBT people will be able to participate more fully and openly in the economy.
Talking Points
Impact of LGBT+ Discrimination on Business and Talent
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    NO RISK
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    LOW RISK
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    MODERATE RISK
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    NOTABLE RISK
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    HIGH RISK
BRAND RISK
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    NO RISK
There is little to no brand risk to operating in South Africa, where LGBT+ rights are firmly enshrined into law.
CLIENT RISK
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    LOW RISK
There is little client risk to operating in South Africa, unless an LGBT+ oriented client is especially attuned to the recent rise in homophobic violence in the country.
TALENT RISK
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    MODERATE RISK
Entrenched homophobia could be a turnoff to local or relocated talent, especially LGBT+ employees.
MARKETING RISK
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    LOW RISK
The country’s pervasive homophobia doesn’t stop marketing targeting the LGBT+ community.
Socio-cultural Environment of LGBT+ People:

Status of LGBT+ Organizing and Community

  • — A spate of violence against lesbians in 2017 and early 2018 shook the nation. Deaths included Joey and Anisha van Niekerk, who were raped and murdered in December 2017, Nonkie Smous, who was raped, murdered, and set on fire in April 2017, and Noxolo Xakeka, who was stabbed on New Years Day 2018.
  • — Only half of black LGBT+ people are completely open about their sexuality.
  • — The Cape Town Pride Festival, held annually, draws local business sponsors. But the event is not without its internal tensions. During the 2018 festival, black LGBT+ South Africans protested the lack of recognition for two lesbians in the community who had been murdered in recent months. The factions compromised with 15 minutes of silence in honor of the victims.

Cultural Views of the LGBT+ Community

  • — Six of 10 South Africans agree that being LGBT+ should not be a crime, but only 51% of South Africans agree that the constitution should provide protections for lesbian and gay people. There is a major divide between existing laws and lived reality there.
  • — According to a new report by the Centre for Risk Analysis at the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) on LGBT+ South Africans, there is “a growing trend” of tolerance and “open-mindedness”: a slim majority of South Africans (50.6%) either agree or strongly agree that gay and lesbian citizens should have the same human rights as the rest of the population.
  • — However, four out of 10 LGBT+ South Africans know of someone who has been murdered because of their sexual orientation or gender identity – and black LGBT+ South Africans are twice as likely to report knowing about someone who has been murdered for their sexuality or gender identity.
  • —Earlier this year, cinemas in South Africa canceled screenings of the groundbreaking LGBT+ film Inxeba (The Wound) after state regulators classified the film as pornography. The film told the story of same-sex love during a Xhosa manhood initiation ritual that some deemed culturally insensitive.
  • — South African commentator Darin Graham has remarked on the duplicity at force in South African society when it comes to acknowledging and advocating for gay people: “Though South Africa has progressive laws for LGBT+ people – what’s on paper does[n’t] speak for the reality of how things are.” He also noted: “…what’s really sad is that because of the advanced legal frameworks, some LGBT+ Africans facing unprecedented violence in their countries come to South Africa seeking refuge only to find that in many communities in the country – homophobia is rife and support is almost non-existent.”
Local Leaders Advocating for LGBT+ Equality

There are many openly LGBT+ activists and experts in South Africa. Out Leadership recommends that you contact:

Luke Andrews, Project Coordinator, South African Workplace Equality Index