The African nation of Swaziland just held its first ever Pride event and it was a 'huge success'

Greg Evans
Sunday 01 July 2018 09:30
Picture:(Mongi Zulu/ AP)

The tiny African nation of Swaziland isn't a country that often makes international headlines.

With a population of just over 1.3 million, it is one of the smallest nations on the African continent but like all countries, it still has an LGBT+ community and this weekend it celebrated it's first ever pride event.

This historic event, in the traditionally conservative country, was organised by Rock of Hope, an LGBT+ nonprofit organisation based in Swaziland.

Organising the event did not come without its problems, however. Police had warned the organisers that threats might be made against them, as homosexuality is outlawed in the country.

Swaziland was renamed the Kingdom of Eswantini earlier this year, and it has the last absolute monarchy in Africa. Sadly, its leader King Mswati III has in the past reportedly branded homosexuality as "satanic".

Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamnini is also said to have described homosexuality as "an abnormality and a sickness".

In addition, the country still has an anti-sodomy law and LGBT+ couples are prevented from being able to marry or adopt children.

The BBC also report that one of the nations leading newspapers, the Sunday Observer, printed a full-page letter in the build-up to the march, claiming that it was promoting "paedophilia and bestiality".

It also asked the organisers to:

Cancel this gay Pride until Emaswati have decided that they will choose this unnatural behaviour.

These threats and archaic views didn't stop the event in Mbabane, which went ahead as planned, with the local police force vowing to provide them with security, despite saying "no to homosexuality."

Speaking to Mashable before the march, Rock of Hope's Advocacy and Communication Officer Melusi Simelane said:

We have planned, not only a march as is customary of the Pride events throughout history.

Pride for us is also about demonstrating our diversity to include all citizens and to create a space for sharing and learning.

With regards to violence we have been assured by the Royal Swazi Police that they will provide security and we have hired additional private security.

He added:

As the inaugural Pride event, we hope to demonstrate that as citizens of Swaziland we are as human as anyone else and that we deserve to claim that space of equality.

At the same time we wish to welcome society at large to introduce themselves to us and bridge the divides that fear has created.

The event began at 9 am on Saturday morning with The Daily Beast reporting that guests and campaigners from South Africa, the US and UK in attendance.

Tweets from the event stated that is was a "huge success" and although it has not been disclosed how many people attended, Simelane had previously told the BBC that he was anticipating around 2000.

HT Mashable

More: This is why LGBT+ Pride is essential, no matter what country you live in​