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South Africa's newest political party is LGBT-friendly

In an announcement yesterday, ANC challenger Mamphela Ramphele said she fully supports gay rights.
Ramphele lgbt rightsEnlarge
Respected businesswoman and anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Ramphele delivers a speech on February 18, 2013 at the Women's Gaol on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg to launch a political party platform to challenge the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Ramphele announced yesterday that her new party supports gay rights. (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

The leader of South Africa's newest political party and renowned anti-apartheid activist, Mamphela Ramphele, announced yesterday that she fully supports LGBT rights.

Gay Star News reports Ramphele formed the new party, Agang (Sotho for 'Let us build'), last week and called on South Africans to join her "on a journey to build the country of our dreams," where there is "a formal system that protects everybody to be able to express themselves."

The black rights leader called homophobia in South Africa a disgrace, said Gay Star News. 

Homophobia is certainly still rampant in the country, the most recent example coming from a Christian pastor who posted on his Facebook wall yesterday that Olympian Oscar Pistorius (who is presently facing murder charges for the death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp) is “cursed for openly supporting homosexuals," according to Pink News.

Although support for LGBT rights is popular with young South Africans, the cause has faced a difficult uphill battle.

More from GlobalPost: South Africa's traditional leaders want gay rights constitution clause changed

In May, tribal chiefs petitioned to have a discrimination clause that protects LGBT individuals from discrimination removed from the constitution, and after the brutal "corrective rape" and murder of lesbian activist Noxolo Nogwaza, a spree of hate crimes were committed across the country. South African President Jacob Zuma has also uttered gay slurs more than a few times, without political ramifications.

"The South African Constitution is one of the highly respected and acknowledged constitutions and it says we are all equal; we're therefore reminding our government to say that this was being promised and we voted for you so we need protection," said LGBT rights activist Ndumie Funda to the BBC in 2011 after Nogwaza's death.

Still, there has not been significant movement on the issue, even if South Africa is one of the most progressive countries on the African continent. South Africa's neighbors still criminalize homosexuality and in places like Uganda, it could be punishable by death, if a bill passes through parliament later this year.

More from GlobalPost: The fight for acceptance in the rainbow nation

But it seems Ramphele may be just the leader the country needs to move forward.

The 65-year-old medical doctor, academic, banker, businesswoman and activist hopes to take on the corruption of the ANC and move South Africa forward, targeting young people, women and apparently, the LGBT community.

"We haven’t educated people to understand that being orientated sexually in a particular way is not a crime, is not a disease; it’s not something you can cure," Ramphele said to the City Press newspaper during an interview yesterday. "It is how God created us."

For more of GlobalPost's coverage of LGBT rights in Africa and around the world, check out our Special Report "The Rainbow Struggle: A Global Battle For Gay Rights." 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/rights/south-africa-lgbt-agang-political-party

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