Nelson Mandela also championed the rights of women and LGBT people

December 6, 2013

As the world remembers and grieves over  the death of Nelson Mandela, it’s important to remember that his legacy includes not only his work to end apartheid but his efforts to end other forms of oppression and discrimination as well.  Erin Gloria Ryan, writing for Jezebel, provides this overview: “What Nelson Mandela Meant for South Africa’s Women.”  She includes this excerpt from his Women’s Day speech in 1996.

The legacy of oppression weighs heavily on women. As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance. As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure.

And Julian Snow, writing for Metro Weekly, summarizes what LGBT leaders are saying about Mandela’s advancement of equality, justice, and freedom for LGBT people as part of his emphasis on the rights and dignity of all people. One of these leaders, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, expressed it this way:

Nelson Mandela tore down oppression, united a rainbow nation, and always walked arm-in-arm with his LGBT brothers and sisters—and with all people—toward freedom. Though every man, woman and child who seeks justice around the world mourns this loss, his vision of an equal future lives on undimmed.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni (1935-2024) was an independent scholar, writer, and editor, and the author or coauthor of nine books. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992). Letha served as editor of Christian Feminism Today in both its former print edition (EEWC Update) and its website for 19 years until her retirement in December 2013.