Soweto Pride 2023 a vibrant display of LGBTIQ+ joy and solidarity


The march through the streets of the bustling township is a focal point of Soweto Pride (Photo: Luiz De Barros / Mambaonline)

Saturday’s 19th edition of Soweto Pride was a vibrant expression of queer joy and celebration underpinned by powerful messages of inclusion, dignity and equality for all LGBTIQ+ South Africans.

Held at Dorothy Nyembe Park in Dobsonville, it brought together LGBTIQ+ community members, activists, NGOs, and government officials in a colourful display of solidarity.

Marching for Visibility and Equality

The day commenced with a spirited march through the streets of Soweto, featuring participants ranging from representatives of the European Union and the United States to Cllr Anthea Leitch, the MMC for Human Settlements in the city of Johannesburg.

Soweto Pride’s focus on activism was evident in the many placards held up by marchers, calling for inclusion, safety and equality and in poignant remembrance of those lost to hate crimes.

More than just a celebration

Fundi Ndaba, the Acting Director of FEW (Forum for the Empowerment of Women), said the turnout for the march represented a new high post the COVID-19 pandemic. She emphasised that the march is a vital component of the event.

“For FEW, Pride is not just about celebration, it’s about walking the streets to ensure visibility and while we are doing that we are creating awareness in our communities.”

Soweto Pride saw hundreds of LGBTIQ+ people and allies turn out to celebrate the rainbow community (Photo: Luiz De Barros / Mambaonline)

However, Ndaba expressed frustration with the City of Johannesburg for withdrawing promised funding at the last minute due to technical issues, leaving FEW scrambling to secure funds for the event.

“The city speaks inclusion and they are very vocal on it. We need to see that in action,” said Ndaba. “If you have promised, you need to deliver. It’s worrying to us that that’s how we’ve been engaging with them to date. If we are to have a future relationship, that should change.”

Government promises renewed focus on LGBTIQ+ inclusion

After the marchers returned to the park, the growing throng was addressed by human rights defenders and officials, including Ronald Lamola, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services.

Ahead of next year’s elections, Lamola pledged that as part of the renewed LGBTI National Intervention Strategy, all government deputy ministers would meet regularly to “raise awareness in society, change stereotypes, [and] shape a society [in which] South Africa belongs to all who live in it.”

Lamola highlighted progress in the justice system, with eight successful convictions between April 2022 and August 2023 in hate crime cases perpetrated against the LGBTIQ+ community.

“The work that you are doing is not in vain. Gradually the message is sinking into South African society that irrespective of gender or whatever orientation there must never be any discrimination in our country,” he said.

Crystal Hendricks made an impassioned plea for the inclusion of intersex South Africans (Photo: Luiz De Barros / Mambaonline)

Intersex Inclusivity at Soweto Pride

Representatives from Intersex South Africa also took to the stage to celebrate their first time formally participating in Soweto Pride.

“Intersex people are African! We are not a curse, we are not a demon, we were not sent to shame your family, we are just like you,” said the organisation’s chairperson, Crystal Hendricks.

Hendricks reminded everyone that inclusivity means not leaving anyone behind, asserting that intersex people should be fully embraced within the broader LGBTIQ+ movement.

As the speeches concluded, the crowd settled in for an afternoon of socialising and entertainment provided by a diverse lineup of performers and DJs, ensuring that the spirit of Soweto Pride continued to thrive throughout the day.


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