South Africa's history of fighting racial oppression and establishing a free, democratic country is admired everywhere. The struggle of Nelson Mandela and his comrades to build a nation that respects all its citizens has inspired the world. Today, South Africa is the only African nation that allows same-sex marriage and adoption, and guarantees civil rights for LGBT citizens.
But now a group of powerful leaders is pushing to change South Africa's constitution – to remove protection for gay and lesbian people.
Patekile Holomisa is an MP for the ruling ANC party and leader of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa). He claims that homosexuality is a "condition that occurred when certain cultural rituals have not been performed", and that "the great majority does not want to give promotion and protection to these things".
His group, Contralesa, wants to get rid of the clause in South Africa's constitution which bans discrimination against gay and lesbian people. Contralesa has proposed this change to the constitutional review committee – which just happens to be chaired by Patekile Holomisa.
For 17 years, the committee has rejected every single bid for constitutional change: but now it has referred Contralesa's bid to the political parties in the National Assembly, South Africa's lower house of parliament, for "discussion and consideration".
Don't turn back the clock
Even with the current protections, gay people in South Africa are frequently harassed or attacked, and lesbians are often subjected to what's euphemistically called "corrective rape" to "cure" them.
In other African countries, things are far worse: in Uganda, despite tireless work by courageous activists, gay people are threatened with jail – there is even a movement to impose the death penalty. A few weeks ago, we had the depressing spectacle of Africa's first elected woman leader defending discrimination against LGBT citizens.
That's why it's crucial that South Africa not backslide on this, and betray its legacy as the continent's most forward-looking nation.
Take action: South Africa's constitution was an early adopter of gay rights and set a benchmark for equality worldwide. Sign this petition to show your support for preserving it.