Wednesday, July 23, 2008

South African Gays Gain Adoption Rights

Gay and Lesbian Pride Week started on the 23rd September 2001, exhibitions and fund raising were held. This lead to the 12th Annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade which kicked off in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the 29th September 2001. This year's theme was "Outthere Everywhere." This year's parade had much more to celebrate as the ruling of the South African court was announced on 28 September that gay couples were allowed to adopt children.
During the parade everything and everybody was represented.

The event started with a rendition of the anthem "God Save the Queen," which will never have the same connotation it once had. Drag queens in their fancy dresses and high heels were part of all things that made a brilliant spectacle of celebration. Stage plays were performed which brought laughter to the already excited gay community. The six colour flag fluttered in the air and many even had their dresses designed in the six colours of the gay pride flag.

It was the day of celebration, celebrating their human existence and achievements, but it also was still a day of struggle, fighting homophobia. The platform was also used to raise awareness and understanding about homosexuality if one cared to listen. There was a placard on display which read "Straight by day and gay by night." Another one read, "Gay, Stabani, Moffie it's our right to be."

With asense of pride the event took to the streets after the opening statements made by Judge Edwin Cameron who is openly living with HIV. Cameron told the gay community "... We must not get complacent and take our constitution for granted. We must celebrate our gay community, which is truly representative of the nation".

He also added, "We represent the nation as a whole and we can be proud to be South African.". On HIV - AIDS issues, he encouraged those who are living with the virus to come out. "Don't be ashamed of living with AIDS, those who must be ashamed are those who try and stigmatise those of us with the virus."

Judge Cameron showed his concern about those who simply choose to ignore the existence of the virus. " Even worse are those people who seem to ignore that we are facing an epidemic" he stressed. In memory of those who succumbed to AIDS, a minute of silence was held.

The judgment that granted gay couples the right to adopt came as no surprise. This followed the court case battle where the Johannesburg High Court Judge, Cathy Satchwell sought to have sections of the Judges Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act and regulations in respect of transport, traveling and subsistence declared unconstitutional.

Another judge, Ann -Marie de Vos and her life partner Suzanne du Toit filed an application to declare the section of the Child Care Act and Guardianship Act which prevented them from jointly adopting their two children invalid and unconstitutional. The two lesbian judges sought to amend legislation pertaining to the joint adoption of children and access for same-sex life partners to the benefits afforded to married judges' spouses.

An adoption right is yet another achievement in the gay community in South Africa, through much struggle.

"I am happy about gay adoption rights, we are all human beings and can also become parents," intoned Mamiki Seglolo, a lesbian. She stated clearly that "We've got love" -- meaning that gays and lesbians are capable of raising a child and having a family.

A deadly error would be for one to think people can see eye-to-eye when matters like gay adoption are discussed. From the heterosexual point of view Johanna says, "I actually don't think it's quiet right, because the gay families are living an unbalanced family life. And kids will grow in there." She said with a serious tone: "On the other hand, you get heterosexual families who doesn't love their kids -- so maybe a loving gay family is better."

The right to love and to have a family is for everyone's, another person commented, but "... in some situations it's a good idea for gay couples to be able to adopt. But if I put myself in the child's shoes, I think it's a little awkward," a concerned Maurice Nonova who is gay pointed out. Without ruling out the implications of being a gay parent and the effects it will have to the child or children,Maurice worries about children teasing each other about lesbian or gay parents.

It would be a mistake not to mention an increasing number of black - African homosexuals coming out, for at least one day, to fully embrace their sexuality. Homosexuality is one of the taboo issues in the black community -- homosexuals here in South Africa stay in the dark closet.
"Blacks are not dominating right now, only whites are," says a university black gay man student, Themba. He acknowledged "Our black communities is still in denial and can't stand the truth, the truth that homosexuality is reality."

With all the talk that homosexuality is not African so much pressure faces homosexuals to present reasons for their existence to the less understanding. Themba adds, "We don't owe anyone an explanation as to why we are gay. And that's the way it is."
Musa Ngubane observed that "Now lately they (black homosexuals) are coming out; they are a lot in the townships." The reluctance of coming out is caused by the fear of being unfairly discriminated against. The possibilities of being thrown out by their families. Worst is the fear of the unknown.

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