From sex to politics to toilet humour - taboos are intrinsic to human nature and socialisation. Societies, have, throughout the ages created strong social prohibitions relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and forbidden, based on moral judgment and sometimes even religious and cultural beliefs. Famous taboos in our country include sex, sexuality and HIV amongst others.
Taboos show us how culturally relative our ideas about the "natural" are, and as South Africans we still find ourselves asking: Is homosexuality natural? Is it natural for a parent to talk openly with their children on the pleasures of sex? Is it natural to masturbate? Is it natural to disclose one’s HIV status to the nation? As a people, we attempt to address these deeply complex questions through the lenses of history, feminism, law, public health, sociology, anthropology, spirituality, poetry, fiction, life stories, rhetoric, song, and even art!.Our 21st century generation, has done well in violating certain taboos of by-gone days, by burning bra’s and writing policies, but I believe the taboo revolution is still in the “struggle phase” here in Africa.
This is spotlighted in our local news by the proposal of anti-gay legislation and also by the fearful hesitance of our young people to disclose their HIV positive statuses in public.
In the third decade of our HIV epidemic in South Africa, we are growing increasingly tired of the red ribbons and the condom adverts, but the underlying taboos that drive the virus on its infectious path continue.
It is time that we recognise these taboos that control us like puppet strings, and cut them!
The University of Johannesburg is currently replete with vibrant movements, some seeking to reinforce sexual hegemonic powers and others challenging, subverting and resisting imposed modes of identity, morality and behaviour patterns. Some of our “Taboo Tacklers” at UJ include a brave group of HIV positive students that are forming a Positive Movement advocacy group to give voice to the concerns of students living with HIV, and to contribute to much needed “positive prevention” amongst young people. There are also numerous societies on campus that are attempting to de-mystify sexuality, by raising awareness amongst students on its complexities. The Liberati Group at the Kingsway campus are an example of one of these active LGBTIA groups (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, intersexed and allies).
If you feel the freedom fighter in you wanting to come out a make a difference against these paralysing taboos, challenge your “old-school” self, your peers and your family. You can also join one of the many behaviour change groups on your campus. Contact the Institutional Office for HIV and AIDS to get more info – firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website on www.uj.ac.za/ioha for more info.