A step too far?: five Cape Town lesbian couples speak about being married

SOURCE: Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2011
TITLE AUTHOR(S): M.van Zyl
KEYWORDS: CAPE TOWN, HOMOPHOBIA, LESBIANS, SAME-SEX MARRIAGE, SEXUAL ORIENTATION
DEPARTMENT: Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 9933

If you would like to obtain a copy of this Research Output, please contact Hanlie Baudin at researchoutputs@hsrc.ac.za.

Abstract

Marriage is bundled with a range of privileges ??? numerous visible and invisible protections, responsibilities and benefits which can be acquired in no other way. It is also a site of gendered power, from the intimacy of a couple???s relationship with each other, to the ways in which the marriage does or does not fit into dominant forms of kinship and family. Even in the countries where same-sex partnerships are legal, many do not include same-sex 'marriages' under the same legal umbrella as heterosexual marriages. By the enactment of the Civil Union Act (2006) same-sex marriage was legalised in South Africa. In this article I investigate how 10 women in same-sex marriages in Cape Town feel to what extent marriage contributes to their sense of 'belonging' in their everyday world. Speaking to five couples from diverse backgrounds and ages, I ask how they experience their marriages. How do they identify themselves? Why did they decide to get married? What are the power dynamics that underpin their relationships? How do they negotiate family relationships and children? I also explore their feelings of safety and risk and how they live their relationship publicly in an environment that is often hostile. In conclusion, I analyse to what extent heteronormativity is reproduced or can be challenged by women???s same-sex marriages.