South African Gay Community Celebrates Freedom Day

We must continue to challenge and pursue true liberation which will only come about when homophobia is stamped out, the poor receive the restoration of their basic human rights and crime is reduced dramatically.

The Gay Flag of South Africa

By Melanie Nathan, April 27, 2012
Celebrated each year on April 27, Freedom Day is an annual celebration of South Africa’s first non-racial democratic elections of 1994. Peace, unity, the preservation and the restoration of human dignity  and this includes that of LGBTI people.

South Africa is one of few countries in the world to boast a fully inclusive constitution, which also outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Gay and lesbian people in South Africa are free to marry, enjoying full equality.

While South Africans celebrate one would be remiss if one failed to note the dichotomy between the law and the reality that is prevalent on so many fronts. While the notion of non-discrimination is embedded so profoundly in the law, it has yet to manifest in truth, on so many levels.

There is still much homophobia to contend with as many in South Africa are misinformed and ignorant on what it is to be gay or lesbian. There is no hate crimes legislation that would deal with the issue of so called “corrective rape,” endemic in South African townships.

Poverty still abounds,  while the ANC, the ruling party since apartheid ended,  has failed miserably to deliver basic and much needed services.

HIV/AIDS is still rampant, providing a struggle for many who seek the correct and adequate medical attention and requisite drug treatment, and crime in the country is abhorrent.

Since the arrival of the Europeans  at the Cape in 1652, the road to democracy was arduous and violent.The indigenous peoples of South Africa, consisting of over 50 different tribes, came under European control and domination through colonization and then Apartheid. People were racially classified and  those of color denied the vote.  South Africa was never truly independent nor democratic. The exclusion of the majority of South Africans from political power was at the center of the liberation struggle and resistance to white minority rule, until Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990, and the vote became universal in 1994,  when the country was able to abolish the Apartheid laws.

While LGBTI people celebrate with all of South Africans, we must continue to challenge and pursue true liberation which will only come about when homophobia is stamped out, the poor receive the restoration of their basic human rights and crime is reduced dramatically.

To all South Africans I say “Keep up the fight until you win true liberation – for that you must use your vote wisely.”


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