Joburg Pride: make it count for those who cannot enjoy our freedoms

Joburg Pride is coming up, and while many use it as an excuse to party, Keval Harie says the queer community should use the event to show solidarity with who are being oppressed for their sexual orientation.

“[When] Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison and political parties were unbanned…It was in this climate of expectation that [Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand] GLOW made its first public statement, and Simon [Nkoli] initiated the first gay and lesbian Pride march [in Johannesburg and South Africa in 1991]. We didn’t know whether people would come or not. We were terrified there would only be a few of us and we would be attacked in the street. I spoke at the meeting before the march and said, ‘Today the world is going to know that we here in South Africa have been oppressed for too long. We can’t stand it anymore. Why do we have to fight for the right to love who we want to love? Today we are making history.’” – Beverly Palesa Ditsie from PRIDE: Protest and Celebration edited by Shaun De Waal and Anthony Manion, published by Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA).

The above is a powerful reminder of the importance of Pride as an assertion of our human dignity and our unwavering demand for justice as queer people. I’m aware that there are people who feel very strongly about Joburg Pride and what it has come to represent.

To those of you who will be attending Joburg Pride this Saturday, I beg you most earnestly to use this opportunity to make your presence stand for something more than just a big party. The reality is that we live in a world that is increasingly hostile towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people. Even from within our community the voices of transgender people and those who identify as non-gender binary are woefully underrepresented in the mainstream.

In the past few weeks, we have seen the unlawful and unconscionable arrest and detention of 13 social justice activists on the basis that these activists were “promoting homosexuality”, when in fact they have been fighting for the provision of certain health services for the for Tanzania’s most vulnerable citizens.

Law enforcement officials in Egypt continue to arrest and harass people suspected of homosexuality using trumped-up “debauchery” and “inciting debauchery” charges. Just this week the Egyptian lawmakers have taken this opportunity to propose terrifying legislation which seeks to systematically persecute every “sexual relation between the same genders.”

We hear on a daily basis the unimaginable suffering of LGBTIQ people in every part of the world, be it Chechnya, Indonesia, Pakistan…

In our own country South Africa, many lesbian and transgender people fear for their lives on a daily basis. It is important that we show solidarity with those within our respective communities who continue to overcome the horrors of gender based violence, including targeted rape. More so, we need to remember those who paid the ultimate price of their lives for simply being themselves.

It’s heart-warming to see many key players from the private sector committed to having a presence at Joburg Pride – this is a step in the right direction. However, more needs to be done to ensure that LGBTIQ workers’ rights are protected within your respective organisations and that necessary policies are put in place which seek to promote diversity and inclusiveness, including the active recruitment of women – particularly black women – and transgender persons within your companies and businesses.

So once again, pick your cause (whatever it may be) and go out there and make your voice heard. Stand up for the many people in our country and abroad who are not, for a number of reasons, able to do so. Carry a placard/poster/t-shirt with a message. I’ll be there doing exactly this.

Keval Harie is the director of Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA). He is a qualified attorney, with a particular interest in the human rights as they relate to gender identity, sexual orientation and access to education. In his spare time, Keval enjoys baking, Bollywood, and Instagramming.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The Daily Vox’s editorial policy.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons