LGBT activists in Swaziland are taking hopeful steps towards official recognition in the conservative nation of Swaziland, where male homosexuality is outlawed and members of the government have denounced it as “satanic.”
The activists hope to win over some hearts and minds by holding a Pride march and festival in June.
If the application by The Rock of Hope for the march and festival is approved, the history-making event will coincide with Pride marches worldwide. The June event marks the anniversary of New York City’s Stonewall riots of 1969.
“This first event is small scale, but we cannot hide forever,” Melusi S. Simelane, communications manager for The Rock of Hope, told The Daily Beast. “We cannot do advocacy if we are not visible. One of the key aspects of any form of advocacy is ensuring visibility: to say, ‘We are here, we exist.’”
There are no LGBT bars or LGBT-specific gathering places in the country. The June event would be the first time LGBT people gathered together en masse.
Swaziland is not the only African country where the LGBT community has met opposition. Uganda Pride events were the subject of a brutal crackdown by police in 2016 and 2017.
Isaac Mugisha, coordinator of Pride Uganda, is determined and optimistic that Ugandan LGBTs will hold a Pride event in Kampala later this year, without it being shut down by the authorities.
“The momentum is so different,” Mugisha said. “Now we are looking at hundreds of people wanting to gather for a Pride event.”
Meanwhile, in Kenya, the High Court has begun hearing a case that may decriminalize homosexuality.
It’s a significant step in East Africa, where homosexuality is illegal in almost every country in the region and in 38 countries in total across the continent, according to Amnesty International.
“The fact that we are being heard is an indicator that our democracy has come of age,” said Eric Gitari, founder of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, one of the organizations which brought the case in 2016.
The presiding judges have adjourned until April 26, when they will announce a date to reveal their judgment.