South Africa's First Gay Minister: Why It Matters

Published: June 6, 2014

Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma‘s appointment of the openly gay minister Lynne Brown to his Cabinet has sparked debate across the globe. News24 looks at why her sexuality matters.

Though openly gay, Brown is not a gay rights activist and has never used her political position to campaign for gay rights. She does however have a rich history in supporting women’s rights – which pre-dates her ANC membership by almost a decade.

Indeed, Brown, 52, has been "out" and in the public eye for many years. So how will her latest appointment change the reality of lesbian women at home or abroad?

What it tells the world

South Africa has previously led the continent on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, with a post-apartheid constitution explicitly affirming equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender.

But our record has been tainted more recently, by the government’s failure to condemn Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill which includes life imprisonment in some cases.

World leaders lined up in protest, with US President Barack Obama calling it "odious". Meanwhile, Zuma’s government issued a statement saying South Africa "takes note of the recent developments" affecting homosexual people and would "be seeking clarification".

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