Saturday saw protestors take to the streets to demonstrate against hate crimes as part of the annual Soweto Pride march and celebration.

Traditionally held a week ahead of the larger Joburg Pride parade, Soweto Pride aims to highlight the plight of black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in South Africa’s townships.

Hosted by the Forum for the Empowerment of Women [FEW] since 2005, the event is seen as a way of showing LGBT visibility and “reclaiming the streets of our townships” said the organisers.

Around 300 people marched from the corner of Cross and Roodepoort road to Credo Mutwa Park on Saturday morning. After a series of speeches at the park, participants were treated to music and entertainment.

The South African LGBT community has been rocked by a number of violent and deadly attacks on primarily black lesbians over the last two years.

While Joburg Pride, which is held in the suburban Rosebank area, has historically boasted up to 10, 000 participants, some activists believe that the event should take place in a township where LGBT people face more challenges.

Mpumi Mathabela, media and communications coordinator for FEW, told Behind the Mask that, “Over the years, many black LGBTI people have found it hard to attend the annual Johannesburg Pride because it is far and expensive for them to be part of it.”

Joburg Pride organisers have argued that the larger event cannot be held in Soweto or other townships in the area for logistical and safety reasons. Nevertheless, the Joburg Pride Board has helped source financing for the Soweto event in the past.

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