Advancing human rights through constitutional protection for gays and lesbians in South Africa

J Homosex. 2005;48(3-4):141-62. doi: 10.1300/J082v48n03_08.


As a consequence of the 1994 adoption of a justiciable Bill of Rights in South Africa, with an equality provision prohibiting discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation, a coalition of gay and lesbian organisations set about implementing a progressive agenda of gay and lesbian rights litigation. In striking down the offence of sodomy, the Constitutional Court established a jurisprudence of gay and lesbian rights to equality, dignity and privacy that proved to be the foundation for significant litigation around family law issues. Subsequent to the sodomy judgement, the Court has ruled that same-sex couples who are in permanent life partnerships should be entitled to the same rights as married couples to immigration, employment benefits, custody and adoption of children. Despite the extensive equality jurisprudence of the Court, it is still uncertain whether it will rule in the future in favour of same-sex marriage or in favour of a civil union/domestic partnership model.

MeSH terms

  • Federal Government
  • Female
  • Homosexuality, Female*
  • Homosexuality, Male*
  • Human Rights / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Sex Offenses / legislation & jurisprudence
  • South Africa