Health for All? Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and the Implementation of the Right to Access to Health Care in South Africa

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Journal Title

Health and Human Rights Journal

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Health and Human Rights Journal


University of Cape Town

The framework of health and human rights provides for a comprehensive theoretical and practical application of general human rights principles in health care contexts that include the well-being of patients, providers, and other individuals within health care. This is particularly important for sexual and gender minority individuals, who experience historical and contemporary systematical marginalization, exclusion, and discrimination in health care contexts. In this paper, I present two case studies from South Africa to (1) highlight the conflicts that arise when sexual and gender minority individuals seek access to a heteronormative health system; (2) discuss the international, regional, and national human rights legal framework as it pertains to sexual orientation, gender identity, and health; and (3) analyze the gap between legislative frameworks that offer protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and their actual implementation in health service provision. These case studies highlight the complex and intersecting discrimination and marginalization that sexual and gender minority individuals face in health care in this particular context. The issues raised in the case studies are not unique to South Africa, however; and the human rights concerns illustrated therein, particularly around the right to health, have wide resonance in other geographical and social contexts.