Gay dating is still taboo in South Africa despite recognising LGBT equality and same sex marriage
South Africa is recognised as being a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) friendly country. Admittedly, a lot has changed post-apartheid. South Africa now recognises same sex marriages and there is a thriving gay nightlife scene in many cosmopolitan cities including Cape Town and Johannesburg. Cape town even has its own annual pride event.
On 9th October 1998 homosexuality was legalised by the courts in South Africa and in November 2006 South Africa became the only country in Africa, to legalise same sex marriage. But this only tells half the story. Outside of the main towns and cities especially in the poorer, mostly townships and predominantly black communities, attacks on gay people are on the rise.
How do gay dating websites compare to mainstream dating sites?
South Africa has been slower to embrace online dating. Partly due to a slower uptake in widespread internet availability especially in the more remote areas. With the expansion of high speed mobile data networks and the falling cost of smartphone technology, South Africa has seen a sharp uptake in online dating over the last few years with several major dating brands entering into the market and some new, homegrown dating brands coming out of South Africa. With estimated dating revenues of around 9 million dollars in 2019 which is expected to grow by an average of 7% per year (source), its easy to see why the emerging country is attractive to investors.
What is interesting about the online dating market in South Africa is the distinct lack of gay dating sites in comparison to mainstream dating and dating for older people. There are very few recognised dating sites for gay and lesbian singles and many of those that do exist, market themselves as ‘hook up sites’. One of the few brands who do cater for gay singles is Perfect Partner. Perfect partner have been operating in South Africa for four years and have secured a good market share of South African users but they do not disclose the number of gay and lesbian members of their site. The only gay dating site that gives membership numbers (un-verified) is Gay Daddy who claim to have around 50,000 members.
So, why the lack of gay dating sites and apps?
Presumably the market is much smaller than more mainstream dating but the biggest hurdle most contenders face is the taboo associated with being gay. Although legal, many gay men are still afraid to come out in public as gay and certainly wouldn’t want to put their name and photo online for all to see. There are safety concerns too. Recently The Mail and Guardian wrote about a worrying trend of gay men being stalked and attacked through the popular dating app, Tinder.
We think the time is right for a strong dating brand to come into South Africa and provide a safe, anonymous gay dating site or app. With such little competition it seems a no brainer but we have been saying this for years now.