The LGBTQ community in Swaziland, newly renamed Kingdom of eSwatini in April, held their first pride parade on Saturday, despite homosexuality being illegal in the African nation, HuffPost reports.
Hundreds took to the streets of the country’s capital city of Mbabane holding signs that read “Turn Hate Into Love,” and flying rainbow flags.
Organizers for the international LGBTQ nonprofit All Out worried that the day would not go well since the LGBTQ community is often discriminated against, but said the event was a big success.
“The community and their allies painted the streets of this country rainbow, with a beautiful, colorful parade that was literally exploding with joy,” Matt Beard, All Out’s executive director, wrote on Medium. “At certain moments… the infectious joy of this community was so intense, it was difficult to hold back the tears. We were loud, proud and dignified. Nobody came to hurl hate, abuse (or worse) at us, as had been feared. Instead, this was a moment of community and personal empowerment.”
“This is the first event of its kind, our first opportunity to show our faces to the world and to our country,” Melusi Simelane of The Rock of Hope, an LGBTQ advocacy group in eSwatini told The Daily Beast. “I am not scared.”
— The Rock of Hope (@TheRockOfHopeSD) June 30, 2018
Simelane said threats and discrimination are a constant for eSwatini’s LGBTQ community.
“There is persecution each and every day,” he told the BBC last week. “We are harassed, we are violently abused, we are emotionally abused.”
The country is Africa’s last absolute monarchy and its leader, King Mswati III, has described homosexuality as being “satanic,” according to HuffPost.
— wake up, wake up, love, it is thine own true lover (@Tioranta) June 30, 2018