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S. African traditional leaders strike out at gay rights

By AFP

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South Africa's National House of Traditional Leaders wants parliament to delete a clause in the constitution that guarantees equal rights to homosexuals, a media report said Sunday.

The leaders, who advise the government on traditional laws and customs among ethnic groups such as the Zulu and Xhosa, made the request in reply to the annual invitation to submit suggestions to parliament's constitutional review committee, City Press reported.

The weekly newspaper said the ruling African National Congress (ANC) would consider the proposal.

South Africa is the only African country to allow gay marriage and adoption.

Its constitution, adopted after the fall of apartheid in 1994, reads: "The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including... sexual orientation."

ANC lawmaker Patekile Holomisa, who chairs the constitutional review committee and is also a traditional leader, said ANC leaders had imposed equal rights for gays on party members and the country.

"The great majority does not want to give promotion and protection to these things," he told City Press.

"The last time this issue was discussed was about same-sex marriages. Most of the people in the (parliamentary) caucus were opposed to it, but then Luthuli House (ANC headquarters) and the leadership instructed us to vote for it."

Holomisa, who said he fears the ruling party will lose votes if it ignores the traditional values of its electoral base, called homosexuality "a condition that occurred when certain rituals have not been performed".

Despite South Africa's liberal constitution, homosexuals still face discrimination, harassment and violence, especially in black townships, where lesbians are commonly targeted for "corrective rape" in the belief that sex with a man can change their sexual orientation.

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