The only African nation to have legalised same-sex marriage and include sexual orientation in its constitution is failing when it comes to protecting GLBTI rights at an international level.

In late June, Jerry Matjila, the South African representative on the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, spoke in opposition to sexual minorities being included among groups who suffer intolerance in the world in a report by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Githu Muigai.

Matjila told the Council that including sexual minorities in the document would, “demean the legitimate plight of the victims of racism”, angering South African GLBT advocates and the main South African opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA).

Reacting to Matjila’s comments, DA Shadow Minister of International Relations, Kenneth Mubu, said, “South Africa’s rejection of the inclusion of sexual orientation as a means of discrimination seems like an act of appeasement to certain African countries with poor human rights records, rather than taking the principled position, and setting an example on human rights which other African states could look to.”

In 2006 South Africa became the fifth country to legalise same-sex marriage.

But since then it has failed to support a 2008 UN declaration calling for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality, and voted to exclude sexuality from another UN document on racism and xenophobia in 2009.

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