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Much ‘I do’ about nothing? The impact of South Africa’s Civil Union Act on media representations of marriage

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With the Civil Union Act in 2006, South Africa passed the first national-level same-sex marriage legislation on the continent. Both proponents and opponents ascribed importance to this legislation based on the idea that it would fundamentally change the institution of marriage. Has the Civil Union Act changed the depiction of marriage in media, and by extension, changed representation of this institution in the public sphere? This article investigates marriage as it appears in South African media through an analysis of 736 English language newspaper articles from 2005–2011. We demonstrate that discourses around marriage changed in the short term, with more attention paid to sexual minorities. Over the medium term, however, there was no significant shift in media discussions of marriage, suggesting that the legislation did not significantly alter depictions of the institution of marriage in the public sphere.
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Keywords: Civil Union Act; LGBTI; South Africa; marriage; media; public sphere; same-sex

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Washington University in St. Louis 2: McGill University

Publication date: March 1, 2017

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