22 September 2003
As the Gay Pride Festival gears up for its 14th annual run, the event – or phenomenon, as it has undoubtedly become – has plenty to celebrate. Each year the festival, highlighting the rights of gays and lesbians, gets bigger and better.
As the largest event of its kind it the country – and the continent – the Gay Pride Festival, which drew as many as 20 000 participants last year, has become a major tourist attraction, enticing like-minded travellers from around the world to join in the fun.
And plenty of fun will be on offer. This year’s theme is “Celebrate our City”, and the event, which spans a whole week, will feature plays, poetry, art, photography, cabaret, comedy, workshops, church services, theatre and music.
Many organisations from other African countries, including Mozambique, Nigeria, Zambia, Swaziland, Namibia and Zimbabwe, will be participating.
The Pride Festival 2003 takes place from 18 – 26 September 2003 in and around Melville, Johannesburg, includes the Pride 2003 Film Festival, an art exhibition, cabaret evenings and stage productions.
Pride 2003 culminates in the Pride Parade through the streets of Rosebank on 27 September, and the Fair Day at Zoo Lake on the same day.
The Gay Pride Festival has come a long way since the first event of its kind, the South African Lesbian and Gay Pride March, took place on 10 October 1990, with about 800 marchers. It was billed as a protest march, but even then the relatively small event had the feel of a carnival.
Now this atmosphere of celebration is Gay Pride’s trademark, with the colourful parade of spectacularly decorated floats and participants the primary focus of the annual ritual.
Despite all the fun and fanfare, protest has always been at the forefront of festival-goers’ minds. Before South Africa’s Constitution was adopted in 1994, gays and lesbians sought freedom from discrimination. Now, with a Constitution in place that protects the rights of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, some of the battles have been won.
However, there are plenty of other battles still being fought – not least for the rights of gays and lesbians in countries like Zimbabwe and Namibia, where oppression and discrimination are rife.
As the Gay Pride Festival becomes an increasingly prominent and inclusive event, it is supported each year by a growing range of cultural, political and recreational organisations.