This is an Instagram picture of Rihanna wearing designer Alexander Wang's P6 beanie, in support of gay rights in Russia and not letting the winter Olympics taking place in that country come and go without highlighting the discrimination and persecution of LGBT people in Russia. A beanie may not be much but it definitely is a statement of solidarity. It is much better than the silence that reigns on this continent as Nigeria and Uganda commit atrocities against their own people simply because of their sexuality. Every single day my Twitter timeline has a headline about a gay couple or person in one of these two countries being humiliated or even murdered by members of their own community thanks to the draconian laws that have either been or are in the process of being signed into law in both Nigeria and Uganda. What sickens me is the silence that has come from the South African government, a government that we put in power and entrusted with our Constitution, which guarantees homosexual people in this country freedom to be whoever they want to be. It's a simple right, really. Why does anyone care who I have next to me in my bed at night or who I am holding hands with and kissing and hugging? How can we rest assured that the gains of our Constitution cannot be reversed by a government that obviously believes it is okay to let our neighbours on the continent commit murder in the name of "protecting African tradition"? Yes, that's the apparent reason for the discrimination against LGBT people- African tradition. It makes one wonder if murder is, then, an African tradition because these so-called laws have spurred violence against homosexual people and, more often than not, it is reported that people are being killed mob justice style as policemen look on and sometimes with their assistance. The South African government's silence on this issue really makes my blood boil. We know how President Jacob Zuma feels about gay people. We didn't have to guess; the man told us himself. History also tells us that, were it not for the late Mandela, gay people in this country would probably still be fighting for their right to dignity.
Our own freedom came partly as a result of international support for our struggle. Why can't we return the favour by speaking out against crimes committed against ordinary people outside of our borders? Are we saying we are okay with this? Gay and lesbian people are still being killed in our country in spite of the constitutional protection. I'm open to being corrected on this but I have never heard strong enough condemnation of this by our government. Why, then, do I expect them to say something about gay rights, human rights, being violated elsewhere on the continent? They don't care. What it says to me is that if they had it their own way, gays right here at home would be getting beat up and killed on the streets and this, as in Uganda and Nigeria, would be state-sanctioned. It's a matter that is neither here nor there for the people we've put in power.
Big ups to Alexander Wang for using his influence to say something on Russia. Let us also use whatever we have at our disposal to send a message to our government.