Parents, families and friends of South African queers join Soweto Pride

Celebration kicks of with protest over hate crime against LGBTQIA+ community

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Protesters marched through the streets of Soweto, kicking off the 18th edition of Soweto Pride. Photos: Ihsaan Haffejee

Raising public awareness of prejudice, harassment and violence towards gay people was a key aim of the 18th Soweto Pride celebration, held on Saturday 24 September.

The event started with a protest attended by hundreds marching through the streets of Soweto. Participants held placards which displayed the names and faces of members of the LGBTQIA+ community who have been victims of hate crimes.

Azania Sengwayo, executive director of Vaal LGBTI, said, “We live in these townships which are very violent towards queer bodies. So marching is a form of saying we are here, we exist. It’s a political programme.”

“Our Constitution is very nice on paper but during the Covid lockdown we had over 30 hate crime cases where LBGTI people were murdered, raped and violated,” said Sengwayo.

At the Dobsonville police station a moment of silence was held for victims of hate crimes and a list of names of gay people who had been murdered was read out.

The protest marchers paused outside the Dobsonville police station where they hoped to address the station commander, but no police representative made themselves available. A moment of silence for victims was held after a list of names of people who had been murdered was read out.

“Honestly, the police are not doing much in any sort of community but it’s even worse in the LGBTI community,” said a demonstrator, Tshego Dithung.

“The police are not sensitised to issues of sexual orientation. So when you get there to report a case, you are mocked and asked things like why are you dressed the way you are. Most people do not report cases of hate crimes to the police because of the way they are treated,” said Sengwayo.

Sengwayo hopes that future legislation in the form of the Hate Crimes Bill will help.

Towards the end of the march, protesters were met by members of Parents, Families and Friends of South African Queers

Towards the end of the march, protesters were met by members of Parents, Families and Friends of South African Queers (PFSAQ), a recently-formed organisation. A group of mothers read out a pledge in support of their children.

“We pledge to makes the streets of our townships safer for the LGBTIQ+ people. We pledge to use our voices to speak up about the challenges of the LGBTIQ+ people in rooms where we are expected to be silent. We pledge to keep encouraging other parents and families to accept every queer being because acceptance is the catalyst of love and safety,” said Martha Mashifane who read out the pledge.

Abel Gaobuse, from PFSAQ, said the organisation was formed by parents so that they could support each other and find ways to support their children. “We find that the community is looking down upon us and our children. So this organisation hopes to bring parents together so that we can find strength in each other,” said Gaobuse.

“It’s important for parents to come here to remove the stigma and shame in our community. These kinds of events raise the awareness of parents so that parents who talk to their communities can show that there is nothing bad about being different.”

A participant waves the rainbow flag at the 18th edition of Soweto Pride.


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