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Stellenbosch University abuzz after student paper prints photo of gay kiss

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A kiss is just a kiss, or so the song goes – but not if it’s a gay kiss at one of South Africa’s oldest and most conservative, rugby-playing universities.

Students at the predominantly Afrikaans Stellenbosch University have been seething at a decision to publish a photograph of two men kissing on the front of the fortnightly student newspaper Die Matie. Editions have been slashed and torn up with some students saying the picture was offensive. But others have posted letters of support on Facebook, and some gay students saying the furor had given them the confidence to come out.

Despite South Africa’s liberal Constitution, which enshrines gay and lesbian rights, including civil partnerships, there is an undercurrent of homophobia.

The picture had its roots in Stellenbosch’s fledgling gay and lesbian community decision to join a heterosexual ‘"kiss-a-thon" in the town. Student newspaper photo editor Vanessa Smeets said the decision to publish was not taken lightly.

“We knew it would be controversial, but not this level of reaction, which has been overwhelming," she said. "We had planned to use a kiss by an interracial couple but we didn’t in the end and settled for this one after checking it was OK."

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