South Africa to allow same-sex marriages
Published Dec 11, 2005 9:07 AM
South Africa’s Constitutional Court
recently ruled that the country’s ban on same-sex marriages is unlawful
and gave parliament one year to bring marriage laws into conformity with the
constitution. The definition of marriage will be changed from its current
formulation of a “union between one man and one woman” to a
“union between two persons.”
constitution was introduced in 1996 following the collapse of apartheid. It
became the world’s first constitution to explicitly prohibit
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The Supreme Court of
Appeals had ruled a year before the recent Consti tutional Court decision that
the existing marriage laws violated the constitution’s ban on
discrimination. However, under right-wing pressure, some of it from churches,
the Home Affairs Department appealed the ruling on the grounds that only the
legislature could modify the definition of marriage.
On the surface the
South African struggle for same-sex equality is not all that different from what
occurs in the United States with the Christian right and other reactionary
elements providing an obstacle to progressive change.
What is different is
the amount of progress that South Africans have made in just over one decade of
democracy and self-determination. Prior to the Consti tu tional Court’s
ruling, South Africa already had a reputation for being in the vanguard on
The South African system has now enshrined a greater
degree of equality than that which exists in most of the so-called advanced
“democracies” in Europe and North America.
The disparity in
justice is an indicator of the development gap between the progressive forces in
formerly colonized nations and those in the aggressor states. Within powerful
capitalist countries with a history of imperialist or colonialist
aggression—such as the United States—the peoples’ movements
are often less developed and meet with fierce opposition. This hampers the
progress of social change.
Progress can occur by comparative leaps and
bounds in former colonies where a recently freed people, steeled by their
struggle, experiment with new expressions of liberty and radical social
policies. The pace of progress is a testament to how anti-imperialist and
anti-colonial movements such as the African National Congress are of benefit to
all people living in former colonies. Complete liberation for all oppressed
people is dependent upon the movement’s ability to carry the struggle
through to its logical conclusion—revolutionary socialism.
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