It is imperative that South Africa lead the movement to decriminalize homosexuality in Africa. And two major events have occurred this past month in South Africa, in what seems to me an historic push for such leadership. Earlier this month Johannesburg Pride took the bold move of sending an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, urging him to exert his leadership on the continent and to specifically speak out against Tanzania’s current hunting and arrest of gays in that Country and Zanzibar. (I wrote about that HERE.)
This weekend the opposition party to Ramaphosa’s ANC, The Democratic Alliance (DA) led a 300 person march on the Administrative Capital in Pretoria intending to shame Tanzania and Uganda for their anti- homosexuality stance and abuse of the human rights of LGBTI people in those countries:
The marchers chanted “shame on you” as they walked to the Tanzanian High Commission. There, the organisers waited for a representative of the Tanzanian government to come out to accept a memorandum. The document calls on the country “to engage openly and securely with the LGBTIQ+ community to create understanding and respect in order for us to be free of the shackles of oppression.”
The participants hung their heads in shame for a moment of silence to show their disdain for Tanzania’s homophobia.
The marchers then moved on to the Ugandan High Commission where a representative, Deputy Head of Mission, Ambassador Kintu Nyago, came out to accept a similar memorandum. The #ShameOnYou protest was apparently first sparked by the decision, led by Uganda, at the 139th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting in Geneva last month to ban debates on LGBTIQ human rights.
Some may choose to object to the fact that the march was heavily branded as a DA event, and perhaps more would have shown up had it not been. According to Mamba Online:
Responding to criticism that the march was heavily branded as a DA event, organizer Wayne Helfrich said the idea for the march came about because DA MP Michael Waters was part of the South African delegation at the IPU when the vote to ban LGBTIQ debate was taken.
To my way of thinking the message was conveyed to the two Embassies and that was a success. That said, if the ANC wants to helm and brand itself as a leader of LGBTQ rights in its own country where it has majority support, and on the continent for African LGBTQI human rights – then rise to the challenge and do something! The ANC has yet to take command and nothing is stopping it. The DA may well have just issued the challenge, albeit perhaps inadvertently. However this should not be seen as a political competition – and South Africa’s LGBTQ community should all show up in unison, whether DA or ANC led. This is about people’s lives. South Africa has the potential to lead the continent to change. Work together!
South Africa it is about time leadership come out with a vehement statement and follow up diplomacy. And it is time for South Africa’s LGBTQ+ community itself to stand behind Jo’Burg Pride – it is about much more than a parade, a dance and beer – it is about our world – our continent – it is about all of our lives! Its time to decriminalize homosexuality everywhere. There must be a collective voice and it must be loud and clear. When you fight for those beyond your own borders, in essence you are fighting for yourselves. Now is the time to put pressure on President Ramaphosa to stand up for freedom of the press and freedom sexuality and gender identity for the entire continent of Africa.
It is time to call for a Presidential Advisory Council/ Leadership Council on LGBTQ+ Africa– to create strategy and develop diplomacy to fight for the decriminalization of homosexuality on the Continent of Africa.
I am happy to see the South African LGBTQ community coming out for this fight – but this is just a start. The push should be relentless. South African politicians and leadership should be held accountable. The SA LGBTQ community must take the lead and keep this momentum going.
BY MELANIE NATHAN, mostly a mom!
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