- The harsh weather did not stop thousands of people to join gays and lesbians to mark the 18th annual Joburg Gay Pride Parade.
"We're amazed and humbled at the support that our community has shown towards the new Pride organisers," the Joburg Gay Pride Festival Company Chairperson, Tracey Sandilands, said. "The fact that thousands braved the rain and cold to assert the importance of Pride shows that the event remains entirely relevant."
"Today was a tremendous success, regardless of the weather," Sandilands said, assuring a bigger and better Pride next year.
The new organising company was registered on 9 May this year.
Led by the Joburg Metro Police Department, the Parade, which consisted of over 30 floats and vehicles, kicked off on the streets of Rosebank. Apart from displaying the gay rainbow colours, participants held placards and signs demanding equal rights for lesbians, gay, bi-sexual and transgender.
The event’s organisers expressed concerned about insecurity looming over gays and lesbians in South African communities. The brutal murders of two Soweto lesbian women, Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa, in July had caused concern among rights activist. The crowd observed a minute silence for the two and all lesbians and gay victims of hate crime.
"Here today, in the midst of the partying and fun, we remember Sizakele and Salome and together we say enough,“ Sandilands told the crowd.
“No longer will we tolerate double standards and discrimination against our community, and we challenge everyone here to speak out against prejudice wherever they find it. It's time to take our stand against the pockets of homo-prejudice that still exist in our society. It's time to make our voices heard against hate crimes."
Participants asked the organisers to host a future Joburg Pride in Soweto. The rest of the celebration ran through the night, with many people turning to the muddy fields of Zoo Lake Sports Club to take their share of food, drink and entertainment.
Last year, South Africa became the first African country to legalise same-sex marriages. But lesbians and gays have not been accepted by most communities in the country as evidenced by increasing violent attacks.
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