The Ugandan flag was on prominent display at Johannesburg Pride (All photos: Luiz De Barros / MambaOnline)
Saturday’s Johannesburg Pride march was dedicated to LGBTIQ+ people across the African continent who do not have the freedom to march or be their true selves without the fear of persecution.
Saturday’s 34th edition of Africa’s largest LGBTIQ+ Pride event was held at a new location, the Wanderers Cricket Stadium, in a slickly organised and well-attended event.
Thousands gathered at the venue in the morning in preparation for the lively procession which kicked off at 14:00. The march proceeded up Corlett Drive into the busy Rosebank area, with motorists hooting in support while passers-by, apartment residents and office staff cheered and watched on.
Diverse Voices Speak Up
This year’s march, said by organisers to be more than 20,000 strong, was one of the largest in years, with a celebratory and defiant spirit that embodied the hopes and challenges of the LGBTIQ+ community.
The event welcomed diverse voices, including Tasnim, an LGBTIQ+ ally who was marching with her friends. She said that it’s important for allies to take part in events like Pride “to show our support, and make sure that people out there know that they are loved, every single one of them.”
Many marchers felt that Pride offered a sense of belonging and security that they often lacked elsewhere. Mpho said, “This feels like home. People don’t accept us for being gay, but when we’re here it’s just like home, there’s the security and we just feel free to be, as a gay person.”
Highlighting African LGBTIQ+ Struggles
In the wake of the enactment of Uganda’s draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act in May, the plight of LGBTIQ+ Africans was at the forefront of many people’s minds, with Uganda’s flag prominently displayed at the front of the parade.
Momo, a member of the LGBTIQ+ community, told MambaOnline that she had chosen to march “as a reminder for those who fought for our rights” and also to “represent those in Uganda who are unable to do this; we are doing it for them.”
Johannesburg Pride Chairperson, Kaye Ally, commented: “This year’s Pride march held particular significance as we marched not only for our local LGBTQ+ community but also in solidarity with our Ugandan and African counterparts who face unique challenges in their fight for equality.”
Ally added that Johannesburg Pride “was honoured to raise awareness for those who cannot march for themselves, shining a spotlight on the issues faced by LGBTQ+ individuals across the African continent.”
The marchers returned to the stadium to enjoy a variety of entertainment, food vendors and community stalls, despite occasional rain showers. Several political parties, including the ANC, the DA, Action SA and others had a presence at the venue.
The Legacy of Johannesburg Pride
Participants we spoke to almost universally agreed that the stadium made for an ideal home for future Johannesburg Pride outings. “It’s safe, secure and has all the facilities you need for an event like this,” said Steven, who’s attended Johannesburg Pride since 2009.
The inaugural Johannesburg Pride, the first such event on the continent, was held in Johannesburg on 13 October 1990 and saw around 800 people taking part. Several Pride celebrations are now regularly held in communities, towns and cities across South Africa and the region.
According to ILGA World, Homosexuality continues to be a criminal offence punishable with prison in 32 out of 55 countries in Africa. While there have been significant advances, in the past year, several nations, including Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, have sought to impose harsher penalties against their LGBTIQ+ citizens.
The Johannesburg Pride organisers announced on Monday that the 35th annual march will take place on 26 October 2024, with the aim of “creating even more visibility and awareness for Africa”.