With Pride month being celebrated in America, we take a look back at how the fight for the LGBTQIA+ community to be recognized in our own country of South Africa has seen a long and hard history; and whilst still ongoing, the waves being made are bringing to light a new age of cultural acceptance.
By Josh Raynham
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 3 of VARSITY News.
In America, June has become known as the month of pride. It began in 1969 during which the Stonewall riots galvanized the gay community and sparked greater political activism. As a result, this time of year has slowly become a celebration and recognition of the LGBTQIA+
community. However, it was not until October 13, 1990, that South Africa became the first African nation to hold a Lesbian and Gay march in Johannesburg. Whilst it was a celebration of gay pride it was also held at a time when South Africa was still in the clutches of the apartheid
regime and was therefore also recognized as an anti-apartheid march and political statement to try to bring an end to the regime. Speaking as one of the founders of the march, Simon Nkoli stated that:
“I’m fighting for the abolition of apartheid. And I fight for the right to freedom of sexual orientation. These are inextricably linked with each other. I cannot be free as a black man if I am not free as a gay man.”
— Simon Nkoli (First pride parade, Johannesburg, 13 October 1990)
Since then, South Africa has held Pride month almost every year with dates varying across the country from late February to November.
Whilst South Africa is among the few African nations which recognized and openly allows LGBTQIA+ pride, the struggle to get recognized is still an uphill battle. In a 2016 study, 44% of the queer community reported experiences of verbal, physical and/or sexual discrimination in their everyday lives.* Furthermore, in a study conducted the following year 49% of black
members of LGBTQIA+ communities said to have known someone who has been murdered for their identity. Whilst this is recent, the past has also been steeped with hurdles. During the apartheid regime, same-sex marriage was illegal and punishable with up to seven years in prison. Following the 1993 Bill of Rights, however, the endorsement of legal recognition saw the prohibition of discrimination against sexual orientation. However, even after the passing of this Bill, avenues such as same-sex marriages, discrimination within universities, transgender rights, and public opinion on the LGBTQIA+ community have all seen uphill battles in allowing for greater recognition within society. Even at UCT, an Inclusivity Policy for Sexual Orientation only came into effect in December 2017, in order to “ensure that UCT’s institutional response reflects the principles enshrined in The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996,” these being, “everyone is seen [as] equal before the law” and prohibits “unfair” discrimination on the basis of sex, gender and sexual orientation.”* This shows that whilst there is growth, policies like this one take long periods of time to come into effect and should be one of the main focuses within our universities.
When understanding the fight which members of the LGBTQIA+ community have to go through, understanding the Pride flag as a central symbol within the community is also an important feature in its history. The rainbow flag, and its colours, reflect the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community. The first flag originated in San Francisco, USA and contained eight colours:
Hot pink Sex
Now, however, those colours have been reduced to six by removing hot pink and turquoise and the flag is flown horizontally with the red stripe at the top to depict a rainbow. These colours have routinely been used to show LGBTQIA+ identity and solidarity and today have become recognized as a symbol of unity and pride.
Pride month is a time to commemorate the trials and tribulations which the LGBTQIA+ community has had to go through in order to become recognized. It is also a time to celebrate the community’s history and culture and to recommit to the work that needs to be done to establish justice and equality for all.