Shifting sexual morality? Changing views on homosexuality in Afrikaner society during the 1960s

04 February 2014

A police raid on a gay party in Johannesburg in 1966 set in motion a series of events which led to a proposal in parliament that there be amendments made to the Immorality Act that would criminalise male and female homosexuality. In an attempt to block these amendments, the Homosexual Law Reform Fund was established to state the case of the middle-class gay community before the select committee that had been formed to conduct an enquiry on the proposed legislative amendments. This is seen as the beginning of the organised gay rights movement in South Africa. For Afrikaner society, the work of the parliamentary select committee was particularly significant because in 1968 it triggered a debate in the letter column of at least one Afrikaans newspaper, Die Burger. It was a historic debate. Previously homosexuality had not been a topic for public discussion in "decent" Afrikaner circles. Now the taboo was lifted for the first time. After the 1968 homosexuality debate there was freer dissemination of information about gay people and the discourse on homosexuality slowly gained momentum. This article contextualises, analyses and evaluates the 1968 debate.