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Against all odds and the law, Swaziland wants to host its first Pride

Written by gaytourism

Swaziland is a landlocked country in Africa. | Photo: Facebook/The Rock of Hope

The tiny south African nation of Swaziland, where it’s illegal to be gay, wants to host its first Pride parade and festival.

The hard working LGBTI organization, The Rock of Hope, has filed an application to hold the event in the capital, Mbabne.

Swaziland, a former British colony, still has colonial era anti-sodomy laws and is not a friendly place to LGBTI people. It’s a landlocked country between South Africa and Mozambique with a population of about 1.4 million people.

Medical and workplace discrimination is widespread and LGBT people face extreme levels of violence.

Much of the discrimination and stigmatization come from those in power. The King of Swaziland said same-sex relationships are ‘satanic’. Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini  said being gay is ‘an abnormality and a sickness’.

We’re here, we’re queer

So to host a very public Pride event is a big deal and organizers are looking for any support they can get to make it happen.

The Rock of Hope’s, Melusi Simelane, said basic recognition of LGBT people was holding the community back. He hoped Swaziland Pride would help raise awareness of the community.

‘We think visibility is the key that will push the message and conversation further. Also, events that provide safe spaces for LGBT people to celebrate their identities are sorely lacking,’ Simelane told Mamba Online.

‘Further, opportunities for the larger Swazi society to interact with the LGBT community in a positive way are rare. We are looking at achieving, at least these goals.’

Organizers are hoping to hold Swaziland Pride at the beginning of June and have started a crowdfunding campaign to help raise fund to make it happen.

They need to raise funds to cover the costs for booking a safe venue, equipment, security staff, catering, and a wide range of outreach and promotion to ensure that this will become the biggest LGBT event in the history of the country.

Simelane said they also need local businesses to also support Swaziland Pride, but is worried many might hesitate to associate with a LGBT event.

He also said getting people to even attend would be a big effort considering the stigma LGBT people face.

‘We need to show numbers, statistics. We want to push our visibility to the government and other institutions,’ Simelane told the Daily Beast.

‘That is why Pride is so important: to show this is what the LGBT community looks like. The prime minister thinks LGBT people don’t exist in Swaziland.

‘Pride gives us the opportunity to say: “What are you talking about? Here are the people”.’

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