LGBTI community discriminated against in higher learning institutionsDate Released: Tue, 17 January 2017 09:02 +0200
Gay and lesbian students from different universities across the country have called on all institutions of higher learning to raise awareness about homosexuality.
This call comes after research by these students revealed that homosexuals at universities suffer the worst kind of discrimination from heterosexual or straight students.
The research was presented during the HIV and Aids Indaba hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. The indaba is aimed at raising awareness about HIV and Aids at universities.
It is tough being gay in South African universities. This is according to research by a Rhodes University student Chipo Munyuki.
It has been a big struggle for transgender people to have their human rights vindicated in society
The research also outlines that homosexual students are more likely to hide their sexual orientation by dating a member of the opposite sex just to be accepted. According to Munyuki, many people would think that students in a higher education environment would be more accepting, but sadly, this is not the case.
“It is tough being gay because you are in a space that you experience moments of acceptance and rejection at the same time. So, it makes it difficult for you to express who you are because not everybody is accepting."
Glenton Medesor, also known as Liberty to her friends, is a transgender male student from the University of the Western Cape. The 24-year-old says being accepted as transgender has not been easy for him.
Liberty says although South Africa's Constitution is the first in the world to prohibit unfair discrimination of homosexuals, society still finds it hard to accept this community.
“It has been a big struggle for transgender people to have their human rights vindicated in society. Various challenges that confront this demographic would include safety and security issues, issues of access control, privileges and disadvantage. This has not been easy for me to get to this space because of all the damage the society has done along the way."
However, University of Venda in Limpopo’s Professor Helen Matshidza says being a gay student at a rural South African university can be a nightmare.
A case study by Professor Matshidza with students at her university shows 50% of all youth do not understand that being against homosexuality is discriminatory. She says being gay or lesbian in rural areas is still perceived as taboo.
“Some of the students were not even assisted when they need assistance because of them being non heterosexual. Others end up even leaving school because they were non heterosexual. Some of them, in order to look heterosexual, they need to fall pregnant and after that they feel like they have proven to be real men or women. Doing that, we are perpetuating the spread of HIV because you find that even when they have their regular partner they are forced to have a so-called acceptable partner.”
The students have called on Department of Higher Education to take strict measures against those who perpetuate homophobia at universities.