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Are Same-Sex Marriages UnAfrican? Same-Sex Relationships and Belonging in Post-Apartheid South Africa


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mikki van Zyl, Simply Said and Done, 54 Kloofnek Rd., Tamboerskloof, Cape Town 8001, South Africa [e-mail:].


In 1996 South Africa was the first country in the world to safeguard sexual orientation as a human right in its Constitution. Homonegativity is pervasive in Africa, including South Africa, with claims that, “homosexuality is unAfrican.” In interviews with 20 self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex, and queer people living in South Africa, the participants spoke about how their identities were shaped by history, place, race, gender, and culture. Though they all recognized marriage as a powerful instrument in asserting their rights, it did not take the place of subjective commitment. Four out of 11 couples were married, whereas the rest were in various stages of either contemplating or rejecting marriage. I used the concept of “belonging” to analyze the underlying social values attached to marriage that position couples differently as citizens. A key issue concerned the tensions between values of “Whiteness,” Ubuntu, and the role of kinship in belonging in post-apartheid South Africa.