A Namibian LGBTI group has declined to endorse a Mr. Gay Namibia contest, in part due to fears of a backlash against gays and lesbians in the country.

LGBTI Namibia had been approached to endorse a Mr. Gay Namibia event or a candidate to take part in the 2012 Mr. Gay World in South Africa, but on Friday, the organisation said that it “will not be endorsing a candidate or a pageant at this point in time”.

It explained that the “uneasy possibility of public and governmental backlash could be damaging to the reputation of the organisation within the country”.

It added that the group is also engaged in a large-scale project that requires the full focus of its members.

LGBTI Namibia said that it hopes to endorse a candidate or event in future “when the national situation has changed for the better”.

The news could be a blow for efforts to have more African contestants in the global contest, indicating a reluctance by some LGBTI groups to increase their public visibility in the face of a largely hostile environment across the continent.

Coenie Kukkuk, director of Mr. Gay South Africa™ and the organiser of the 2012 Mr. Gay World contest, who had earlier this year emphasised the importance of African participants, told Mambaonline that he was not overly concerned by LGBTI Namibia’s stance.

“Mr. Gay Namibia is still going ahead through a Namibian producer. He has the backing of Mr. Gay South Africa and is applying for the license to host the event,” he revealed.

Kukkuk explained that the Mr. Gay World board was understanding of the reality of the African context and was taking this into consideration.

Mr. Gay World allocates four places for African representatives in the contest every year, but to-date South Africa is the only African nation that has submitted a candidate. A contestant from Lesotho was unable to raise funds to attend the competition in Manila earlier this year.

Kukkuk said that there currently efforts underway to also have representatives from Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe take part in Mr. Gay World in Johannesburg next year.

He added that any African contestant can apply directly to Mr. Gay World or Mr. Gay South Africa organisers to represent his country.

The legality of consensual gay sex is something of a grey area in Namibia. Consensual sodomy is illegal and could be used to prosecute gay men although this is not thought to have happened since the country’s independence in 1990.

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