News / Africa

S. Africa Gay Rights Parade Sends Serious Message

People take part in the Joburg Pride Parade in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2, 2010.People take part in the Joburg Pride Parade in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2, 2010.
x
People take part in the Joburg Pride Parade in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2, 2010.
People take part in the Joburg Pride Parade in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2, 2010.
Anita Powell
South Africa’s largest city of Johannesburg hosted its annual gay pride festival Saturday - a raucous, colorful celebration in the only African nation where it is legal to be gay. The parade comes as the president of the southern African nation of Malawi says her nation’s voters are not “ready” to overturn anti-gay legislation.

It’s seven in the morning and activist Albert Kafuka says he needs just one thing before the gay pride parade starts in four hours: glitter.

“I really want some glitters on my body, or on my vest," said Kafuka. I’m wearing a black vest, but I would like it to be like a little bit shiny or, how you say, like ‘bling bling.'

Beneath the glitter - and there is a lot of glitter - the feathers, and the leather, fellow activist Henry Bantjez says there is a serious message: to maintain constitutional rights.  Bantjez leads the Gay Flag of South Africa movement, which is making a national bus tour to promote gay rights and a rainbow-colored version of South Africa's flag.

South Africa is the only African nation to allow same-sex marriage and full gay rights; Malawi was considering abolishing its anti-gay laws, but President Joyce Banda recently said she doesn’t have popular support for her proposal.

Bantjez spoke to VOA while wearing a white sailor’s cap, a pink satin bow tie, a pink feather boa, pink fake-fur arm-warmers and a fishnet shirt over his glitter-covered chest.  He says his group opposes a May proposal by traditional leaders to remove a constitutional clause that protects gay South Africans against discrimination over their sexual orientation.

“There’s a very serious side to what we do as well, even though we look pretty silly today," said Bantjez. "Yeah, well, the serious side is, this year, our bus tour is actually called ‘I am African,’ because a little while ago one of the traditional leaders in South Africa, who is very very powerful and also serves on the constitutional review committee, which is very very powerful, he suggested the amendment of our constitution to amend sexual orientation rights, which is absolutely crazy, you can only add to our constitution, you cannot take away.”

South African archbishop Desmond Tutu coined the term “Rainbow Nation” to describe his country’s racial diversity and harmony. On Saturday, attendees seemed to interpret that literally, with eye-popping results. Rainbows, a traditional symbol of gay pride, were everywhere. A couple wore matching prison-style orange jumpsuits emblazoned with the words “proud lesbians.” A male pair wore Cinderella-style ballgowns in pink and purple.

The colorful, raucous, over-the-top event stands in stark contrast to the rest of Africa, where gay men and women are often harassed, discriminated against or targeted with violence.

In Uganda, politicians are considering a bill that would impose life imprisonment -- or even the death penalty - for homosexual acts. Bantjez says his group is calling for South Africa to impose sanctions on Uganda.

Liberia in July passed a law against same-sex marriage.

Kafuka knows this all too well. He claimed asylum in South Africa because he says he could not be openly gay in his native Congo.

But despite its laws protecting gay South Africans, the nation is no gay utopia. South Africa is the hub of what is called “corrective rape” -- the rape of lesbians by men.

Among the entourage on the Gay Flag bus is 19-year-old singer and performer Adonis. The name fits. Like the Greek deity of beauty and desire, Adonis has a smooth face, a slim figure, an elegant coif, full lips and a beautiful singing voice.

“This is, at its core, it is a human rights issue," said Adonis. "Just like there was apartheid and it was a system that oppressed people,  homophobia and these kinds of stigmas that come across and are being inflicted on us, is just the same way, are you saying we are less human for being who we are?”

Adonis’ real name is Thabo Gaubuse, and he is a young man. He’s also among South Africa’s “born free” generation - those born into a post-apartheid world. When he told his parents he was gay, he says, they shrugged and said, yeah, cool.

He says he wishes everyone could be so accepted.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs