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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid