24 March 2011
South Africa’s Francois Nel was crowned Mr Gay World 2011 at a lavish awards ceremony in Mandaluyong City, Philippines last week – in the process securing the rights for South Africa to host the annual event in 2012.
The 28-year-old make-up artist and teacher beat competition from 23 entrants from around the world to become the new goodwill ambassador for Mr Gay World, an organization that seeks to combat discrimination against gay people worldwide.
In doing so, he made it two in a row for South Africa, inheriting the international title from his compatriot, Charl van den Berg, the winner of the 2010 edition of the competition.
As the winner, Nel will receive US$25 000 worth of trips to five continents to help “raise the visibility of optimistic gay men in a constructive dialogue with our fellow citizens”.
Next stop South Africa
In a spectacular grand finale at Club Mwah, the Philippines’ member of the Mr Gay World board, Noemi Alberto, made the symbolic handover to South Africa’s Coenie Kukkuk, who will be the host producer of Mr Gay World 2012 in Johannesburg from 4 to 8 April next year.
Mr Gay World president Eric Butter said: “We are so excited to take our Big Five (continents) to Africa to experience the ‘Rainbow Nation’ for our fourth annual competition.
“The producers of Mr Gay South Africa have produced excellent quality events, and we are looking forward to the production and unique African experience they are planning for the international delegation.”
Speaking at a press conference in Johannesburg last week, Kukkuk said the aim of the 2012 competition would be twofold – to highlight the plight of LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] people across Africa, as well as to give hope to LGBTI people themselves by showing them positive role models.
Nel wrote on his blog afterwards: “Congratulations to all those that have a vision of a world where there is no discrimination. South Africa, your liberal and progressive constitution was what inspired me and my team members to stand on the world stage and to be Proudly South African.”
Coming out against ‘corrective rape’
While South Africa’s Constitution includes a Bill of Rights that was the first in the world to explicitly protect lesbians and gays from discrimination, gay and lesbian South Africans still suffer to varying degrees from the reality of societal stigma and discrimination.
Writing on his blog on Monday, South Africa’s Human Rights Day, Nel said that, during a recent visit to Cape Town, he had met with Melanie Nathan and Ndumi Funda, who are both involved in combating what has become known as “corrective rape”, in which lesbian women are raped purportedly in order to “cure” them of their sexual orientation.
“Our lesbians are being raped because they live true to their natural identity and share love with other females,” Nel wrote.
“Human rights mean that we can love unconditionally, even when we share love with the same-sex, it does not infringe or is not to the detriment of other communities, it is love that reaches beyond the judgment projected upon minorities because of negative beliefs.”
Luleki Sizwe, a non-governmental organisation founded by Funda, recently met with Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe as part of a campaign to have “corrective rape” labelled a hate crime.
Luleki Sizwe has been pushing for the government to set up a commission to research, develop and implement a national action plan to tackle anti-gay and lesbian violence in South Africa.
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