Mrs South Africa (Pic: Facebook)
Despite initial concerns, the annual Mrs South Africa pageant has confirmed that it does indeed accept married lesbian women as contestants.
Running since 2006, the event is dubbed “the number one pageant for married women in South Africa”, and states on its website that it is also a “women empowering program”.
Mambaonline was contacted by an upset Leandra Joubert who said that she wanted to enter the pageant as a “married gay woman” but feared that it was not open to lesbian women.
She cited a 2013 radio interview with Gareth Cliff in which former Mrs South Africa Chane de Kock suggested that only married heterosexual women could enter. Joubert also pointed out that the application form on the pageant’s website asks for the name of the applicant’s “husband”.
The site does not otherwise mention any exclusion of women based on sexuality and only stipulates that they must be married.
Mambaonline reached out to the event’s organisers for clarity on the issue and received a prompt reply from Joani Johnson, CEO of Mrs South Africa. She confirmed that Joubert’s concerns were unfounded and said: “Gay marriages are legally recognised in South Africa, therefore we will accept a gay entrant as long as she can produce a marriage certificate.”
Johnson added: “Mrs South Africa is all about women empowerment and we do not discriminate against any woman based on her sexual orientation or culture.”
She explained that in the 2013 interview, de Kock answered in error as she “wasn’t sure about our policy and did not know how to respond correctly.” She commented that, “We are now in 2016 and the company and our policies have evolved a lot since then.”
Leandra Joubert hopes to be the first openly lesbian Mrs South Africa
When queried about the husband’s name field in the application form, Johnson said that it was an oversight and that she would change it to “spouse” (which she did within minutes).
Joubert told Mambaonline that she was “extremely grateful” to Johnson for her quick response and does not believe that the organisers were purposefully trying to discriminate.
She said that she will definitely enter the pageant to help “empower all woman to love themselves and be proud, strong and independent, no matter their circumstances, race or sexual orientation.”
Joubert concluded: “That’s why I want to enter Mrs South Africa, not because I am a gay married woman but because I believe I can change the world.”
Entries for the 2016 Mrs South Africa pageant are open until 1 March.