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By Sameer Naik
Thousands of black lesbians were due to take to the streets of Soweto today to celebrate their sexuality and humanity at the annual Soweto Pride Day.
Soweto Pride, which was initiated in 2004 by the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), aims to promote tolerance of sexual diversity in the township.
The event will also commemorate and honour Soweto’s fallen victims and survivors of crimes motivated by prejudice – including migrants facing xenophobic violence and other minority groups that are stigmatised and discriminated against.
Soweto Pride is held every year on the Saturday closest to Heritage Day, and includes a lively protest march from the streets of Zone Two Meadowlands and through the residential and business areas of Soweto.
A political programme at the end-point is followed by a cultural programme to celebrate the struggles and victories of black lesbians, as the broader women’s movement and as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Community, religious and political leaders have been invited to denounce hate crimes in their speeches at the event. These were to be followed by various activities, including an exhibition and voluntary counselling and testing.
Soweto Pride is also an occasion for the lesbian community to continue to create a political and social space for its visibility and to amplify its voice.
According to FEW’s programme co-ordinator, Phindi Malaza, the event is an opportunity for the broader community to express its solidarity and support of lesbians.
“The goal of Soweto Pride is to ensure that lesbians residing in the township no longer fall victim to homophobic attacks or any other crime. We want lesbians to feel safe and protected during this day and beyond,” says Malaza.
This year’s theme of Soweto Pride is “embrace diversity”, which Dikeledi Sibanda from FEW describes as their way of being inclusive of everyone, even outside the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.
But it was the case of the murder of 19-year-old lesbian Zoliswa Nkonyana, who was killed in March 2007 by a mob, which touched the country the most deeply.
Late this month, four fugitives were rearrested after escaping from the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court, where they were on trial in connection with Nkonyana’s murder.
Meanwhile, the annual Joburg Pride Parade will be held next Saturday.