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Project: Creating safe and inclusive trade unions and workplaces free of homophobia

What will it take to build LGBT inclusive workplaces in South Africa?

Vision of the Project:

An environment that encourages individual change in consciousness and behaviours and promotes inclusive practices and policies for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) workers in working towards workplaces and trade unions free of homophobia. 

Mission of the project:

To support Gender Coordinators in creating inclusive and safe spaces in the workplace and union where women, young people, people living with disabilities, migrant workers and LGBT workers feel free to claim and exercise their rights.


Problem statement

The number of murders of self-identifying lesbians in South Africa is alarming. LGBT workers and job seekers still face discrimination and harassment in the workplace and the trade union movement. This is despite the broad commitments and resolutions taken at international and national levels to promote and protect the rights of LGBT identifying workers and to highlight good practices that promote meaningful inclusion. 

Discrimination, harassment and exclusion from the labour market often occur because fellow workers and employers have very strong perceptions of what is considered heteronormative. We think that there's been increased access to justice for LGBT workers over the past few years due to progressive legislation. However, legislation alone has not stopped discrimination. The reality is that many LGBT workers and job seekers continue to face discrimination and harassment on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. 

The good news is that we have examples of how broad commitments and resolutions taken at international and national levels that can serve as important starting points to programmes that promote consciousness-raising and shifts in practice at a local level: In 2012, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) launched the Promoting Rights, Diversity and Equality in the World of Work (PRIDE) project and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) passed a resolution calling on affiliate trade unions to actively promote and protect the rights of LGBT identifying workers. Yet, gender activists in the trade union movement have limited exposure to addressing LGBT rights as part of their gender equality mission. Consequently, activists struggle with their own homophobic attitudes and behaviours. The trade union movement hasn't actively engaged with other civil society organisations such as LGBT organisations, resulting in programmes that operate in silos. 

How will success look like?

+ Trade union gender activists have an increased consciousness, passion, knowledge and skills to advocate for rights, policies, collective bargaining agreements and organisational cultural changes at a workplace and trade union level that challenge heteronormativity and promotes inclusive practices and policies for LGBT workers. 
+ An increase in the number of LGBT workers who feel safe, secure and empowered in the trade union, workplace and when seeking employment

+ An inclusive trade union gender programme that includes LGBT rights 

Project Partner 

The LRS Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) workplace rights project is made possible through the support of The Other Foundation

The Other Foundation works to advance equality and freedom in southern Africa with a particular focus on sexual orientation and gender identity, through expanding the resources available for defending and advancing the rights of LGBTI people.


Creating safe and inclusive workplaces for workers who are LGBTI+ | Webinar meeting report

> Decent work for LGBTI+ workers webinar | Meeting report 

History of activism on LGBT rights in South Africa 

A practical guide for LGBT workers in South Africa 

PRIDE at work - a study on discrimination at work on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in South Africa 

Building safer communities for LGBT people in South Africa 

ILO GBV at work standard: First-ever comprehensive legal standard 

Bargaining Equality - A workplace for all: Discrimination 

Sexual Orientation and Sexual Diversity in the Workplace - A draft code of good practice 

Sexual Orientation Booklet: Schools take responsibility to prevent discrimination

Workplace Rights Belong to Everyone - Addressing homophobia in the workplace 

Sexual harassment at the workplace - Get empowered

Covid-19: Implications for gay workers

Covid-19: Implications for gay learners 

Key project contact:  Nosipho Twala  |  [email protected]