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Research

Our research programme

In addition to providing research materials through the archives programme, GALA also commissions research projects and publications that enhance understanding of LGBTIQ issues. As the only dedicated LGBTIQ archive facility in Africa, GALA is committed not only to preserving individual and communityhistories but also to ongoing knowledge production and dissemination. As such, all research projects are carefully selected to compliment and expand the materials held in our archival collections. Our research programmeis also positioned within a human rights and social justice framework, and forms the basis for evidence-based advocacy projects. Research findingsand recommendations are always linked to targeted outreach activities that reflect GALA’s commitment to increasing awareness of LGBTIQ issues.

To ensure that our research is academically rigorous and can withstand scrutiny, GALA makes use of its long-standing links with South African universities. GALA is also committed to actively collaborating with organisations that can strengthen and support its diverse research activities.

Previous research projects undertaken by GALA include a study focusing on the experiences of gay men and lesbians in the South African military; the retrieval of state records on sodomy trials; an investigation of gender identity for African traditional healers involved in same-sex relationships; and life history projects.


Recent research projects

Climate Study on Homosexuality and Homophobia in South African Secondary Schools

South Africa’s celebrated Constitution is premised on equality and a respect of human rights, including guaranteed protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. South African schools are, therefore,legally obliged to safeguard the rights of lesbians and gays. But are schools sites that encourage and promote respect, dignity and equality?

In 2011, GALA undertook a national climate study on homosexuality and homophobia in South African secondary schools. Authored by Professor DeeviaBhana (Deputy Dean Postgraduate Research, University of KwaZulu-Natal), the report’s findings were based on two complimentary research components: a quantitative survey of learners and teachers at five secondary schools; and a qualitative study using focus-group interviews with learners, teachers, school management teams and parents. The study also included a review of national education policies, curricula and other relevant documents.

As the first comprehensive study of its kind, the report provides much-needed insight into the ways in which learners, teachers, school management teams and parents understand and experience homosexuality, and the meanings ascribed to homophobia within a school context. In so doing, the report addresses crucial information gaps and goes some way in providing a richer sociological portrait of schooling in South Africa.

The final research report will be published in September 2012.

A Dangerous Knowing: Integrating LGBTI Issues in South African Teacher Training Programmes

GALA’s experience in the education sector suggests that current teaching training programs insufficiently prepare future teachers to tackle and reduce homophobia in schools. This is a significant shortcoming given the role teachers play in shaping and influencing young minds. Adequately preparing teachers to engage with issues of sexuality and gender – and, more specifically, the dominance of heterosexism and homophobia –is vital for challenging social prejudices and for reducing discrimination against LGBTI people.

For GALA, establishing whether LGBTI issues are integrated within teacher training curricula is the starting point to inform future strategies, policies and advocacy interventions. It was with this is mind that GALA commissioned a research study to investigate the ways in which institutions are currently preparing teachers to engage with LGBTI issues and to outline strategies for supporting and enhancing these training programs.

Undertaken by Dr Bernadette Johnson (Director of Research, Vaal University of Technology), the study focused on teacher training programs at three sites: the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of the Free State and theUniversity of the Witwatersrand. Data was collected through focus groups and in-depth interviews, with the investigation concentrating on the experiences and understandings of final-year teaching students.

As the first study of its kind, A Dangerous Knowing fills a crucial void in current scholarship and helps provide a better understanding of how and with what intention students are being prepared to create non-homophobic environments within schools.

The final research report will be published in September 2012.


Outside the Safety Zone: An Agenda for Research on Gender-Based Violence Targeting Lesbian and Bisexual Women in South Africa

Outside the Safety Zone provides a much-needed foundation on which to build future research into violence against LGBTI communities in general, and against lesbian and bisexual women in particular.

The report examines a range of key issues relating to gender-based violence, including naming and describing sources of violence, measuring the problem, conceptualising its causes and consequences, and responding to violence against LGBTI communities.

Through its detailed survey of existing scholarship, Outside the Safety Zone isolates and describes crucial information gaps, and puts forward a comprehensive list of future research priorities. In its wide reach, the report tackles many thorny issues, among them political will, the concept of hate crimes, and intimate partner violence.

Outside the Safety Zone is an invaluable tool for any person or organisation involved with gender-based violence in all its manifestations, and an essential resource for building future advocacy campaigns.

The final research report will be published in September 2012.