JOHANNESBURG — After Mr. Gay Ethiopia entered the Mr. Gay World contest, his father cut off all communications. Mr. Gay Zimbabwe withdrew, fearing the publicity was making life difficult for his mother.
But Mr. Gay Namibia’s family accompanied him to the airport for a warm send-off when he left for the competition, which culminates for him and 21 other men late Sunday in the finals at a Johannesburg casino.
“Bring the trophy home,” Namibia’s Wendelinus Hamutenya said his mother told him.
Hamutenya said his experience shows that Africans and Africa can change. On the continent, gay rights activists have been vilified, threatened and killed. Laws in dozens of African countries ban homosexual acts. Prominent African politicians ridicule gays and minor politicians grab headlines by proposing even tougher anti-gay laws.
“I hope and I believe that Namibia will be the second country in Africa to recognize the rights” of gays, Hamutenya said in an interview.
The first country is South Africa, also the first African country to host Mr. Gay World, which debuted in 2009 in Canada. The bill of rights adopted after apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994 explicitly bans discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Same-sex couples can marry and adopt children in South Africa.
Teboha Maitse, acting chairman of South Africa’s Commission for Gender Equality, said she fought white racist rule alongside openly gay comrades, and that experience made her and others aware of the need to enact legal protections for gays. But she said when she travels farther north, “people say, ‘You South Africans, you don’t behave like Africans.’”
Maitse, whose government-appointed commission regularly speaks out in support of gay and lesbian rights, acknowledged in an interview that even in South Africa gays, lesbians and others who don’t fit a traditional definition of the sexual norm do face discrimination and worse.
Of particular concern in recent years have been attacks on lesbians sometimes called “corrective rapes.” Maitse
This article originally appeared on: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/08/4399194/mr-gay-world-comes-to-africa.html