South Africa is believed to be the first country in the world to officially recognise a gay flag as a symbol for the LGBT community.

The South African government announced in the government gazette last week that the Gay Flag of South Africa was approved and accepted as South Africa’s official gay flag, following an application by its creators.

The Gay Flag of SA was designed by the non profit organisation (NPO) of the same name and was launched in December 2010 at the annual Mother City Queer Project (MCQP) party.

The NPO was behind a recent campaign opposing calls by Phathekile Holomisa, from the Council of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, to remove sexual orientation protection from the Constitution.

The flag is an adaptation of the international gay rainbow flag created by Gilbert Baker in 1978 and incorporates elements of the South African national flag.

It was registered by the Department of Arts and Culture, through the Bureau of Heraldry, which designs, registers and protects heraldic representations such as flags, guided by the Heraldry Act.

“The Gay Flag of SA is now officially recognised and protected by the Department of Arts and Culture and the government of South Africa,” said Mava Mothiba from the department.

Eugene Brockman, creator of the Gay Flag of SA, commented that “Today is personally, the most important day of my life”.

He went on to say that “the flag has become a symbol of both the celebration of queer South African identity as well as the obstacles and hate crimes LGBTI South Africans face that are unique to this country.

“More than that, the flag is a watch dog, an NPO advocacy group that has brought Phathekile Holomisa’s actions into the spotlight and mobilised vast numbers of LGBTI citizens and civil societies to take action,” he said.

Brockman added that he believes that the government’s recognition “validates the gay flag. It was reviewed and debated by a board at the Bureau of Heraldry and it offers a great sense of recognition of the work we’ve done over the last two years”.

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