PUBLIC TALK: The criminalization of inter-racial sex and white male suicide in South Africa, 1950-1985
|The criminalization of inter-racial sex and white male suicide in South Africa, 1950-1985 : A public lecture by Susanne M. Klausen, Professor of History, Carleton University, Ottawa
Upon winning power in 1948, the National Party (NP) immediately set out to end miscegenation in South Africa. The NP proclaimed that a central tenet of proper white sexuality was avoidance of sexual contact with people of different “races.” Many men ignored this injunction and the new government placed primary responsibility for miscegenation on them – white men who lacked “color consciousness.”
In 1950 the NP government passed the Immorality (Amendment) Act that criminalized extra-marital sex between whites and other races. The Act unleashed the police and courts to punish men who persisted in having sex with black women and the women with whom they were caught. Tens of thousands of people of all races were prosecuted for contravening the law and the vast majority were white men and their black so-called accomplices. Many served time in prison, though not in equal proportion. Lacking resources required to access legal counsel, more black women than white men went to jail. However, white men were subjected to another, unique type of punishment: intentional shaming by public exposure that accompanied arrest and subsequent trials. For many men, the emotional suffering induced by shaming was so intense they committed suicide, leaving behind families forced to carry their shame.
This public lecture by Professor Susanne M. Klausen, Professor of History at Carleton University in Ottawa and 2018 UWA Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow, will discuss a major lacuna in our understanding of the apartheid social order, namely the meaning and enforcement of compulsory heterosexuality for whites. This study examines the policing of white male heterosexuality and its importance to the apartheid project.
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