Constitutional Change and Participation of LGBTI Groups: A case study of South Africa

This publication is only available in electronic format
31 December 2015
978-91-7671-019-7 (Print)
David Bilchitz,

In 1993 South Africa promulgated its first democratic interim constitution and became the first country in the world to include a prohibition on unfair discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in its constitution. In an attempt to develop an analytical understanding of the various factors that led to the inclusion of this prohibition, this Discussion Paper considers the history and context in which this groundbreaking development occurred.

Over recent decades, the inclusion of rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) groups in national constitutions has increasingly been seen as an indicator of the strength and consolidation of democracy. However, LGBTI advocates do not have sufficient access to resources providing guidance on how to engage with the constitution-building process or frame demands for equality of rights and recognition in constitutional texts.

Working mostly with leaders of advocacy campaigns themselves, International IDEA has developed detailed accounts of struggles for constitutional equality for sexual orientation minorities in Bolivia, Fiji, Grenada, Kenya, Ireland, Nepal and South Africa. 


1. Introduction

2. Sexual orientation and the interim constitution

3. The retention of sexual orientation in the final constitution

4. The constitution’s promise: Has the sexual orientation clause delivered equality?

5. Conclusion: Lessons from South Africa


About the author

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In the picture, Sergio Bitar (board of IDEA International), Elisa Loncon (President of the Constitutional Convention), Jaime Bassa (Vicepresident of the Constitutional Convention), María Jaraquemada (Programme Officer of IDEA International) and Renata Retamal (Consultant and assistant of IDEA International).

Sergio Bitar (Board of Advisers, International IDEA), Elisa Loncon (President of the Constitutional Convention), Jaime Bassa (Vice President of the Constitutional Convention), María Jaraquemada (Programme Officer, International IDEA) and Renata Retamal (Consultant and assistant, International IDEA).

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