Gay rights are safeguarded by the Constitution. Yet, LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers who seek refuge in South Africa face a potent double challenge: A devastating combination of homophobia and xenophobia.
On February 14, 2012, Tinashe kissed a man. Hours later, he was tortured.
Tinashe, who asked to be identified by a nickname, grew up in Harare in Zimbabwe, conflicted by what he called “strange feelings.” Avoiding unanswerable questions about girlfriends and romance, he spent hours with female friends, but those relationships never went anywhere. In 2011, when he was 21, he identified as gay.
News spread quickly after Tinashe and his partner were spotted by the man’s mother. A few acquaintances asked him to meet. Then they beat him up, telling him that homosexuality was something demonic, something satanic. “But I am not a Satanist,” Tinashe said, not knowing how to respond.
Tinashe fled Zimbabwe days later, terrified by the prospect of a police investigation, because same-sex relationships in that country are punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He told border guards he was visiting a friend. When he arrived in Johannesburg, he stayed with someone he had met on Facebook, but was unable to get a job because he…