Julia Nicol worked actively as an anti-apartheid activist in the late 1980s and early 90s, particularly concerned with the anti-discrimination rights for LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer, and intersex) people.

Nicol trained as a librarian, and played an integral role in LGBTQI+ politics in pre-democratic South Africa. She, along with fellow comrades Simon Nkoli, Ivan Toms and her partner Sheila Lapinksy, lobbied for the recognition of LGBTQI+ rights to be constitutionalized.

Nicol and Lapinsky were active members of a number of Cape Town based LGBTQI+ organizations, and founding members of Lesbians and Gays against Oppression/Organization of Lesbian and Gay Action (LAGO/OLGA). Together, the partners were instrumental in ensuring the rights of the LGBTQI+ community did not go unnoticed in the midst of the freedom movement, particularly within the African National Congress (ANC).

Nicol was involved in the drafting of a an influential proposal to the ANC Constitutional Committee in 1990. This proposal called for the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals to be recognized and constitutionally protected. This highly influential proposal was adopted as a part of the Constitutional Committee’s draft constitution in 1991, and eventually ratified in 1992. 

Nicol passed away on April 3, 2019. She leaves behind a lifetime of LGBTQI+ activism which has proved foundational to the constitutional rights of the LGBTQI+ community in South Africa today.


Gay and Lesbian Archives of South Africa. “Remembering and Honoring Julia Nicol”, April 2019. Available at https://gala.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Julia-Nicol.pdf online. Accessed 18/07/19.

Tatchell, P.  “South Africa: How the ANC was won for LGBT rights”,  20th February 2019. Available at https://www.petertatchellfoundation.org/south-africa-how-the-anc-was-won-for-lgbt-rights-2/ online. Accessed 18/07/19.

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