Watch: South Africa Doco Reveals Plight of LGBT Refugees

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) News show ‘Special Assignment’ has broadcast a world-first documentary about the plight of LGBT refugees in that country.


Nobody knows how many LGBT people have fled the rest of Africa for sanctuary in South Africa, but it may well host the largest number in the world.

Until this year, the refugees had no dedicated support, but in May, the group PASSOP (People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty) started a Gay Refugee Program.

In the film, my friend Jed ‘Junior’ Mayema describes the horror he fled in the Congo, where his mother thought he was possessed by a mermaid and tried to kill him by injecting him with gasoline.

Roy from Uganda describes how blackmailers tried to cut his arms off with a ‘panga’ (machete).

And from Zimbabwe, Tatenda describes how ignorant people thought the intersex woman actually a gay man and therefore ‘unbiblical’.

Africa is a very hostile place for gays and lesbians. In at least 32 African countries, you can be sent to jail or a labor camp for having gay sex. In three of these countries, you can be condemned to death.

South Africa, with its liberal constitution (sexual orientation is in it, a world first) and vigorous NGO sector, is a shining exception. So gays and lesbians from across the continent are making their way there to escape persecution from the state, the community and even their own families — and they have the right to claim asylum.

What they face when they arrive is one of the world’s biggest refugee crises. For the past few years South Africa has had the biggest number of asylum seekers in the world. Xenophobic riots have twice swept the country and those LGBT people arriving face not only that but extensive discrimination as gay people as well.

It can take years to get a hearing and, the documentary shows, they often face homophobic reactions from officials they deal with.

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Photo credit: screen grab


heather g.
heather g6 years ago

I wish someone would tell them to go to the Canadian Embassy !

Jane H.
Jane H6 years ago

At least South Africa has the framework of a law to end discrimination. It is truly hard to read and painful for us all to know this about Africa My prayers are with them all.

Roger B.
Roger Bird6 years ago

Check out Pat Condell. He is a gay man who is not disconnected from his 'nads: He is not afraid to call it the way it is concerning a so-called religion that is at war with just about everyone: gays, lesbians, women, the West, Jains, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Zoroastrians, Druze, Sufis, Buddhists, atheists, the Pyramids (yes, those pyramids), Russians, Copts, Christians, etc., etc., etc.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Steven L.
Steven L.6 years ago

Hate... Hate...Hate... It drives the ignorant. The Religious Extremest are loosing ground in the USA, so they are reaching out to brainwash the African people who are too ignorant to know the truth ... Gays were BORN Gay, CREATED BY GOD, FOR GOD'S REASONS!

Curb the world's overpopulation, find loving parents for children abandoned by straights, we need to trust in God's plan. Rather than work together, Gay and straight to find solutions for the world's problems, these people find love in discrimination, condemnation, and crucifixion. They do to Gays what was done to Christ.

God will prevail ... WHAT ONE SOWS, SO SHALL THEY REAP

Dawid Blyth
David B6 years ago

In Africa the problems of homosexuals are only a small part of the overall situation.
There are more South Africans in exile now since the new regime.
That says volumes about conditions in the country - it seems to be going the way of Zimbabwe.

Fred Krohn
Fred Krohn6 years ago

Religions based on badly mistranslated core texts should be enjoined from perpetrating violence based on those texts. That includes Islam, many versions of Christianity, and some more radical Jewish variants as well as many other faiths that include septs inclines towards rabid homophobia and other unacceptable responses.

The question of 'choice' in sexual preferences and partner gender is ambiguous. Much evidence indicates that partner gender preference is either genetic or is 'firmwired' very early in infant experience and thereafter is not easily changed, it alterable at all. Consenting adult partners should therefore be able to function in public 'appropriately clothed' and without offending anyone (except maybe a few radical prudes and homophobes who I regard as enemies of everyone) and enjoy each other in reasonable privacy (as in away from the criticism and observation of children, prudes, and 'phobes). The concept of 'Get a room!' should apply to both heterosexual and homosexual partnerships; all else should be fellow citizen level.

Wayne M.
Wayne M6 years ago

Okay, let's examine Steve R.s latest remark: "Errr - perhaps the answer if you are LGBT in South Africa or anywhere in Africa - is NOT to broadcast the fact???

Seems to me it would be prudent to quietly live your life and keep your sexual orientation where most people do - to yourself."

Now, let me change the wording a little bit:
Errr - perhaps the answer if you are Christian in Iran or Saudi Arabia - is NOT to broadcast the fact???

Seems to me it would be prudent to quietly live your life and keep your religion where most people do - to yourself.

Steve R.: You need to learn to things:
1. I chose to be Christian and religion is a choice. On the other hand, being LGBT is not a choice. Read some up-to-date scientific and psychological research before making statements.
2. Heterosexuals do not keep their sexual orientation to themselves. They advertize it through their talk at work and by claiming various family and marriage benefits and privileges. They display pictures of spouses and girl/boyfriends. And one look at the picture by your statement shows you don't keep your sexual orientation to yourself either.

Tegan O.
Tegan O6 years ago

Steve, if this refers to the comment I made, this in no way reflects my sexual orientation. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, there have been many petitions going around the world and sent to the government of South Africa to try and stop the horrors and abuse that occur to these poor woman.

Steve R.
Steve R6 years ago

Errr - perhaps the answer if you are LGBT in South Africa or anywhere in Africa - is NOT to broadcast the fact???

Seems to me it would be prudent to quietly live your life and keep your sexual orientation where most people do - to yourself.