South Africa’s progressive constitutional framework still chiefly benefits members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community who are lucky enough to live middle class, urban lives. 

This is one of the findings in the latest report from the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), An In-Depth Look into the Quality of Life of LGBT South Africans.

In a statement, the IRR says that the report finds that LGBT South Africans living in less affluent, rural spaces, and with a lack of access to private sector facilities, are particularly vulnerable to discrimination. Conservative attitudes are more prevalent in public sector hospitals and schools. The report also highlights research showing that victims of hate crimes are distrustful of the police.

Author of the report, Gerbrandt van Heerden of the Centre For Risk Analysis, discussed these and other findings in a webinar yesterday. 

Van Heerden says more needs to be done to address the economic and social challenges facing LGBT people, especially those who are poor and black, and live on the margins of society. 

‘Doing so will demonstrate how serious South Africa and its policy-makers are in cherishing and respecting the country’s progressive Constitution,’ Van Heerden says.

The report recommends that: 

1. Officials such as police, teachers, judges and magistrates receive proper training and resources regarding LGBT issues; 

2. Sexuality and sexual health be included as a subject in the healthcare worker curriculum so that professionals in the field will in future have sufficient skills to manage LGBT patients properly, and be more knowledgeable about their specific healthcare needs; 

3. Companies and employers be guided towards understanding that a hostile-free workplace for LGBT people can improve productivity and output, and attract talent;

4. The experiences of transgender South Africans and the broader LGBT community be formally included in official data collection and analysis – such as the national census – in order to fill a void in the existing data landscape and ensure better resource allocation; and 

5. The reach and influence of the media be exploited to provide accurate reflections of the lived experiences of LGBT South Africans.