South Africa Commends U.S. on Human Rights Progress

May 10, 2012

Following U.S. President Obama's statement yesterday in favor of the right for American gays to marry, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane - South Africa's Minister of Internatinoal Affairs and Cooperation -  issued a statement applauding the U.S. on "moving towards the South African example of human rights for all."

The statement also expressed that although the South African government was still skeptical that marriage equality will be enacted in all 50 states anytime soon, it welcomed Obama's gesture as a  "move in a positive direction."

"We remain concerned about the size and racial composition of the U.S. prison population"

South Africa has enjoyed marriage equality since 2006 - when its Parliament complied with a Constitutional Court decision directing the body to extend the benefits marriage in the country to all its citizens.

Since that time the government estimates that over 3,000 LGBT couples have been married and enjoy all the same legal rights as their heterosexual friends and neighbors.

In an interview with BBC World News Nkoana-Mashabane stated that she had met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns (pictured) to express her government's appreciation for the move:

"We had a good hour-long conversation and we didn't skirt the issue of human rights. We thanked the Obama's for his volte face on marriage equality,  but we remain deeply concerned about the size and racial racial composition of the U.S. prison population."

Indeed the United States the highest incarceration rate of any nation in the world, which at 743 per 100,000 people is more than twice South Africa's. Nearly 40% of the U.S. prison population is of African descent, despite being only 11 percent of the population.

Nkoana-Mashabane explained to the BBC's viewers:

"With only 5% of the world's population, the U.S has 20 percent of the world's inmates. This is a gross injustice that violates modern African standards of human rights. We expect more progress from Obama."