26/01/2018 11:52 GMT | Updated 26/01/2018 11:52 GMT

Legal Equality For The LGBTQI+ Community, On Its Own, Can't Stop Hate

The high levels of intolerance that the LGBTQ+ community faces overshadow South Africa's so-called "equality".

Rajesh Jantilal/ AFP/ Getty Images
South Africans marching in the annual Gay Pride Parade during the three-day Durban Pride Festival. June 24, 2017.

South Africa, with its liberal, democratic Constitution, is supposed to be a safe haven for all. However, the conservative, hateful ideologies of the past have been ingrained in many. This causes great ignorance and discrimination towards many marginalised groups, including the LGBTQI+ community.

Our Constitution is queer-inclusive when it comes to political and legal equality: same-sex marriage, civil unions, adoption for same-sex couples and civil rights are all legally protected

This is only one form of equality, however. It doesn't mean that queer individuals are not marginalised and mistreated in South African society.

There are a number of factors that prevent LGBTQ+ people from being treated as equals to cisgender heterosexual individuals. It was recently reported that the department of home affairs has been refusing to acknowledge that same-sex couples can live together. This discriminatory stance by home affairs is a direct contravention of the equality enshrined in law.

In a recent study to determine how homophobic various areas are in South Africa, it was revealed that Eastern Cape is the most homophobic province in the country.

In fact, the study revealed that 50 percent of black queer individuals in Eastern Cape know of another black queer individual who was assaulted or murdered for being LGBTQI+. These are scary statistics – and sadly, it doesn't end there.

At the end of 2017, News24 published a report about the high levels of violence that the LGBTQI+ community faces in South Africa.

South Africans need to be educated more about the right of LGBTQI+ individuals to exist without persecution, to change the dehumanising ideology that many have towards queer bodies.

According to the report race, religion, culture and geography play a role in the increasing levels of intolerance and violence towards the LGBTQI+ community. We have a crisis on our hands.

Queer black individuals are being targeted every day for who they are. So far this year, four queer individuals have been killed, one of them a queer black woman who was killed during New Year's celebrations. A same-sex couple was also murdered in December.

Since there are many homophobic/queerphobic/transphobic individuals and structures in South Africa, the LGBTQI+ community faces hate attacks coming from various directions.

As a result, emotional and psychological stress is placed on queer bodies. Mental-health issues and suicide are extremely common in the LGBTQI+ community, with frequent reports of individuals battling depression or committing suicide.

In addition to the violence, some scholars argue that the legal equality of the LGBTQI+ community is undermined by institutional discrimination on a daily basis. Gender scholar Les Wright, speaking to Vice, said that same-sex marriage doesn't have an impact on equality, because of the daily struggle of being queer in an intolerant, oppressive society that hates LGBTQI+ people.

The high levels of intolerance faced by the LGBTQI+ community, especially black queer individuals, overshadow South Africa's so-called "equality" – South Africa needs a wake-up call.

South Africans need to be educated more about the right of LGBTQI+ individuals to exist without persecution, to change the dehumanising ideology that many have towards queer bodies.