The Broken Rainbow: the history of JHB Pride with Dr Bev Ditsie

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Dr Palesa “Bev” Ditsie, teaches us about the important role Johannesburg Pride played in the acceptance of the LGBQTIA+ community in post-apartheid South Africa.

EPISODE THREE: HOW JHB PRIDE HELPED DECRIMINALISE HOMOSEXUALITY IN SA

JOHANNESBURG – In a usual year, this month would have seen Sandton, Johannesburg painted with bright colours and flags, to celebrate the acknowledgement of LGBTQIA+ rights in South Africa. We would have also seen thousands of members of this minority group celebrating Africa’s Pride month. But this isn’t a usual year. COVID-19 has ensured that none of the usual festivities would be happening this year.

Johannesburg Pride has always played a crucial role in the recognition of the LGBQTIA+ community in democratic South Africa, and in the third episode of The Broken Rainbow, we speak to one of the founders of the country’s first Pride event, Dr Palesa “Bev” Ditsie, to learn about the important role Johannesburg Pride played in the acceptance of the LGBQTIA+ community in South Africa.

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The first march was hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Community of the Witwatersrand (GLOW), an NGO formed in 1988 by Simon Nkoli, which aimed to create an explicitly non-homophobic, non-racist, and non-sexist space for gays and lesbians living in and around Johannesburg.

Nkoli was an anti-apartheid activist who saw his political struggle as interlinked with his struggle for gay rights. In 1984 he was arrested for his association with the United Democratic Front (UDF) under the Delmas Treason Trial and detained. He was released in 1988, and passed away on 30 November 1998. He would become an important figure when we talk about the history of Pride marches in the continent and activists who helped fight for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in South Africa.

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As South Africa was nearing the end of apartheid and looking at drafting a new Constitution after apartheid, GLOW saw it as an opportunity to urge political parties to include the rights of the minority LGBTQIA+ community in the country. And it was a lot easier then, it seems than it is now to find common ground. But why was a Pride march in during apartheid so important?

Archive material by Donne Rundle/Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) LGBTIQ Archive.

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