JOURNAL ARTICLE

Religion-related stigma and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at a South African rural-based university

Azwihangwisi Helen Mavhandu-Mudzusi, Peter Thomas Sandy
Culture, Health & Sexuality 2015, 17 (8): 1049-56
25732232
This paper reports on the stigma and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at a rural university in South Africa. Twenty lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students recruited through snowball sampling participated in this study. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used as a framework for data analysis. Findings indicate that religion-related stigma and discrimination are common at a rural-based university in South Africa. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are typically ascribed a range of labels, including 'sinners', 'devils' and 'demon possessed'. They are also exposed to a number of discriminatory acts, such as the denial of financial and healthcare services and threats of and/or actual rape. Study participants reported attempts to convert lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students' sexual orientation which involved the use of intervention in the form of prayers. Derogatory labelling and associated discriminatory acts, for example the threat of rape, led many students to conceal their sexual identity, not attend specific classes, terminate their studies and even attempt suicide. Universities should develop policies to promote greater social inclusion and the acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. Policies should also specify the steps or approaches to be taken in addressing discriminatory practices.

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