On September 30, 2023, Dorothy Nyambe Park in Soweto, Johannesburg, came alive with colours, music, and the vibrant spirit of the LGBTQI+ community.
The 19th Soweto Pride, an annual celebration of love and acceptance, not only demonstrated unwavering support for the local LGBTQI+ community but also brought to the forefront the critical issues faced by LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa.
Soweto Pride has long been a symbol of resilience and unity in the face of adversity for South Africa’s LGBTQI+ community. This year, the event took on added significance as Rainbow Refuge Africa joined forces to create an impactful presence at the festival.
Their collective mission was to shed light on the urgent concerns affecting LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers while advocating for change.
The Plight of LGBTQI+ Asylum Seekers
One of the primary issues highlighted at Soweto Pride was the pressing need for access to documentation for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers in South Africa.
With the recent surge in homophobia and the introduction of anti-gay legislation in several African countries, such as Uganda’s controversial anti-gay law, the safety and security of LGBTQI+ individuals have come under severe threat. This has led to a growing influx of LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers seeking safety and refuge in South Africa.
However, the process of obtaining asylum and legal documentation remains an arduous and often inaccessible journey for many. Rainbow Refuge Africa has been at the forefront of advocating for streamlined and equitable access to documentation for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers, recognising it as a fundamental step toward securing their rights and safety in what we all know as the rainbow nation.
Creating Safe Spaces and Fostering Belonging
At Soweto Pride, Rainbow Refuge Africa emphasised the vital role of safe spaces in the lives of LGBTQI+ individuals. For refugees and asylum seekers, these safe spaces are not only sanctuaries from persecution but also places where they can rebuild their lives with dignity.
The Fruit Basket, known for its work in providing support and resources to the LGBTQI+ community, reiterated the importance of these safe spaces as centres for empowerment, education, and emotional support.
Holy Trinity LGBTI Ministry, with its commitment to faith-based acceptance, emphasised the need to create spaces where LGBTQI+ individuals can reconcile their spirituality with their identity.
Rainbow Refuge Africa’s participation at Soweto Pride 2023, in collaboration with The Fruit Basket and Holy Trinity LGBTI Ministry, was a resounding success, marking a significant step forward in the fight for LGBTQI+ rights, representation, and safety in South Africa.
Their collective efforts at Soweto Pride serve as a reminder that love, acceptance, and the fight for human rights know no borders. The call for accessible documentation, safe spaces, and a dignified existence resonates not only in South Africa but throughout the continent and the world.
Henry Wackam is the Founder and Director of the Rainbow Refuge Africa.