Equal rights without discrimination : probing the experiences of lesbian students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Mutambara, Marcia Victoria.
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The gap between human rights and sexual identities has gained much attention in the world. Despite the heated resentment of homosexuality in Africa, South Africa is the only African state which has embraced equal rights for all people despite their sexual orientation. However, this has not been a means to end the heinous and disturbing acts of violence and discrimination against LGBTI (Lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersex) persons. It is evident that though the South African constitution is versatile and inclusive to all rights, the society is not as liberal as the legislation in recognizing the significance of sexual rights. This study therefore, ascertains the extent to which these rights are consolidated and upheld in Higher Education Institutions like the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Using the responsibility to protect norm and social constructivism and social identity theories, the study explored the experiences of a small group of self-identifying lesbian students at the university. Findings reveal that most lesbian students encounter discrimination and social stigma on university premises. The social stigma perpetuates the silencing of some of the students’ sexual identities, and silencing of one’s sexuality constructs the dynamics which make the heteronormative status strengthened suppressing the lesbian status. Findings also reveal that most of the participants felt vulnerable and unsafe. The study in turn recommends that there has to be more active awareness programs and a more specific policy that rules out discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The study concludes that it is the responsibility of Higher Education Institutions to make sure that all student rights are catered for.