Democratic Alliance members highlighted rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Africa during a Human Rights Day event hosted in Pretoria. Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

Pretoria – Democratic Alliance members in colourful regalia gathered at the Tshwane City Hall celebrating the annual Human Rights Day with special emphasis on rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTI) community in Africa.

“Today is another big milestone for the LGBTI community and our rights here in South Africa, and indeed on the African continent. What we are doing here is, to my knowledge, a first. We are making history, again. I salute the DA-led government of our city who are proving themselves as not only our allies, but also part of our community,” Hendrik Baird of Gay SA Radio told a lively crowd.

“I have already written to the office of the president to ask for permission and to request that on the 16th of May when we celebrate the international day against homophobia, transphobia and bi-phobia that we do exactly the same thing at the Union Buildings, and at Parliament in Cape Town. I hope they see what we are doing here today and that we can do this on a national level too.”

As part of the commemorations, members of the DA hoisted LGBTI, South African, and party flags in front of Tshwane City Hall, next to the multi-million rand chief Chief Tshwane’s towering bronze statue.

Baird said the LGBTI community was saddened by unperturbed attacks, particularly on lesbian woman.

“Let us make it a political thing again. Too many of lesbian women are brutally murdered and raped in townships. To many gender non-conforming men are attacked and left for dead. People are being spat on, people are still being discriminated against, and we must re-politicise [LGBTI] pride so that we can guard our rights vigilantly, because they could so easily be taken away,” said Baird.

Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

DA Member of Parliament Zakhele Mbhele, who described himself as “the first openly gay black member of parliament” told the gathering that rights of the LGBTI community cannot be separated from basic human rights.

“There is this nonsense that comes up every now and then, that when LGBTI people are calling and advocating for equality and inclusion, we are somehow asking for special rights. That’s absolute nonsense," said Mbhele. 

Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

"LGBTI people are full and equal members of society, and therefore when we push for our equality, we are simply asking for the rights that everybody else enjoys and is entitled to in the Constitution.

“It is not enough for rights to exist simply on paper – in the Constitution, in our laws or in policy – if they are not able to be enforced and upheld by strong, effective and capable state institutions. 

Video: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

"If we don’t have state institutions that we can rely on, to uphold and enforce those rights, then our rights are greatly limited. If you are a victim of hate crime, you must have an effective police service that you can go to and open your case, and not be a victim of secondary victimisation where the police further harass you because you are gay, lesbian or transgender. 

Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

"We must be able to trust that they will be swift effective investigations and the culprits are found and they face justice.”

Loud music was played and many in the jovial crowd said they were having a memorable time on the annual Human Rights Day.

African News Agency/ANA