Mr Gay World in Africa

2012-04-08 18:28

kalahari.com

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 on 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 recognise 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 chair 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 said gay men often suffer in silence, sometimes committing suicide to escape taunts. She said poor, black gays and lesbians are particularly vulnerable because the communities in which they live are conservative.

South Africa's Mr Gay World contestant, Lance Weyer, is white.

Weyer, a psychologist, said gays like him have the education and money to fight back when their rights are violated. That makes it all the more important, he said, for successful gays and lesbians to speak out, both to be role models for others and to shake up conservative attitudes.

Not just African

The problem isn't just African. The Chinese contestant was unable to come to Johannesburg because of anti-gay pressure there, organisers said. Representation was thin from Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East - all regions where gay rights are under threat.

In the United States, projects like It Gets Better reach out to young homosexual to help them cope with harassment, a reminder that even in the West, gays are vulnerable.

The American Mr Gay World contestant, Kevin Scott Power, is an elementary school teacher who said even young children experience anti-gay bullying.

Power said he was not nervous at coming to Africa, despite its homophobic reputation.

"We're all representing the people that don't have the power to stand up," he told reporters in Johannesburg.

Coenie Kukkuk, Africa's director for Mr Gay World said the contest produces a spokesman and role model for gays, particularly in Africa. Previous winners of the contest have gone to schools and universities to speak out about human rights. Prizes include $25 000 in travel vouchers to enable the winner to spread his message around the world.

Kukkuk said he has struggled to get more black South African and other African contestants. M. Namibia's story helps illustrate why that has been difficult, but also gives reason for hope.

Hamutenya, who herded cows as a young boy in remote northern Namibian, realised when he was in his teens that he was attracted to men. He confided to his father when he was 16. His father called the police and had them take his son to a mental hospital.

Hamutenya escaped from the institution and lived with friends. Eventually, he and his father reconciled. Hamutenya went on to study nursing in South Africa, and returned to work as a midwife in his home region.

Hamutenya said villagers respect him because of his work, and because his family is prominent and known for its piety. Hamutenya himself once considered becoming a priest.

Since becoming Mr Gay Namibia, Hamutenya has lobbied for a repeal of his country's anti-sodomy law. And he says politicians have been receptive to his arguments.

Hamutenya was badly beaten in Windhoek, Namibia's capital, after winning the Mr Gay Namibia contest last year. He believes the attack was a mugging, not a hate crime.

Organiser Kukkuk insisted that Mr Gay World is not a beauty pageant.

Mr Gay World includes an essay test on the history of the gay rights movement. But the swim suit competition counts for more, according to the judges' handbook. The seven judges are from around the world and include journalists and an actor.

Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of the New York-based International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, worries such glitzy contests feed stereotypes that could cement the view, often heard in Africa, that homosexuality is un-African.

"Most of us are of colour, poor, don't look like we go to the gym regularly," Johnson said in a telephone interview. "Class does matter. It is poor men who experience the most oppression."

He gave Mr Gay World credit for drawing attention to discrimination against gays, particularly in Africa.

But Johnson said that during a recent visit to Johannesburg, he was dismayed to find the advertising featured two white men - the South Africans who won Mr Gay World in 2011 and 2010.

"The one thing they ought to do is change that poster," Johnson said. "Have one black guy up there with no shirt on. Cater to a diverse audience."

- AP

Read more on:    namibia  |  sa  |  southern africa  |  gay rights
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
59 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Madonsela to probe ANC food-for-votes claims

Public protector Thuli Madonsela has launched an investigation into whether the ANC has used state resources for its electoral campaign, says a report.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy Note 16GB

GALAXY Note combines the market's largest HD Super AMOLED display,...

From R3899.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be good at organising events but they do take their toll on your energy levels. You may need some time out today just to...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.