This years Durban Pride will be celebrating legal equality for the South African Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer + (LGBTQ+) communities; remembering the lives lost to hate crimes, discrimination and stigma; and expressing resistance to and outrage over violence against the LGBTQ+ community.
Global leaders in HIV care, the Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF), are sponsoring the Durban Pride for the second consecutive year. This years event which will take place on Saturday commemorates 25 years since South Africa’s first democratic elections and the journey to a progressive constitution that includes the Bill of Rights and the Equality Clause which guarantees protection against unfair discrimination based on race, gender, disability, religion and importantly for the LGBTQ+ community, sexual orientation.
The year also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969 where police harassed patrons of the Stonewall Inn – a local gay bar – and trans women led by Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson who fought back. Their fight sparked a riot which lasted three days and gave birth to the LGBTQ+ liberation movement.
Same-sex marriage was legalised after a landmark ruling by the Constitutional Court in 2006, making South Africa the only African country with full legal equality for LGBTQ+ people. Despite progressive laws, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ continue and stigma and discrimination are still common.
Earlier this year the murder of a gay man was condoned by the Pinetown High Court citing the “gay panic” defence. The Judge in the case ruled that the accused’s violent outburst was justified as the victim had allegedly made a physical advance towards him. This bogus justification has been outlawed in the United States but persists in South Africa.
“We recently celebrated the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relations in Botswana. This battle is part of the larger war that still rages, as 29 African nations consider same-sex relations as unlawful. These laws make it harder to combat HIV because people are afraid to ask for help for fear of prosecution,” said Hilary Thulare the AHF South Africa, Country Programme Director.
She added, “That is why AHF is supporting Durban Pride. HIV continues to disproportionately affect trans people and men who have sex with men and AHF wants to make sure that members of the LGBTQ+ community have access to stigma-free HIV prevention, treatment and care.”
No historic reflection on LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa would be complete without acknowledging the sacrifices made by people like Simon Tseko Nkoli and Prudence Nobantu Mabele. At the Delmas Treason Trial Nkoli was one of the first anti-apartheid activists to publicly come out gay.
In the 1990’s Nkoli advocated to destigmatise HIV and was a founding member of GLOW (Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand). His death from AIDS in 1998 sparked the establishment of the Treatment Action Campaign. Prudence Mabele was one of the first South African women to publicly disclose her HIV status.
She went on for found Positive Women’s Network and was a champion for LGBTQ+ rights and against gender-based violence until her death in 2017.
“AHF keeps the promise to the LGBTQ+ community to ensure stigma-free healthcare for all. We stand with the LGBTQ+ community against homophobia and discrimination. Phrases used in the media like ‘sexual preference’ perpetuate the mistaken belief that being gay is a choice. It isn’t. People with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations must be welcomed in our healthcare facilities and treated with dignity. AHF commits to doing just that,” said Larissa Klazinga, Regional Policy and Advocacy Manager, AHF South Africa.
-Adapted from a press release