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New gay rights party to stand in S. African elections

A new party that will defend gays and lesbians against violence and persecution will stand in South Africa’s elections this year, its spokesman said Saturday.

“We need a voice in parliament to protect women from being raped because people want to cure them from being lesbians,” Michael Herbst of the Equal Rights Party told AFP.

“We need someone in parliament when boys are bullied at school because they are thought to be gay,” said the retired professor of health studies at the University of South Africa.

“South Africa has one of the most beautiful constitutions that guarantees the rights of the people who are lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, et cetera. But in reality, it doesn’t work well,” he said.

While homosexuality is widely accepted in mainly white parts of Johannesburg and Cape Town, it remains taboo in many rural areas and in working-class black townships.

While gay marriage has been recognised since 2006, gays and lesbians are regularly killed because of their lifestyle.

Lesbians in the townships are often victims of “corrective rape”.

Herbst also said lawmakers for the new party would have a platform for speaking out against violations of gay rights in countries such as Russia, Nigeria and Uganda.

Asked what he thought the party’s chances were in the elections slated for the second half of the year, Herbst said: “We can definitively make it.”

The National Assembly’s 400 seats are awarded proportionally, and the smallest party in the current parliament won fewer than 36,000 votes — some 0.2 percent — in 2009 elections.