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Saturday, 29 September, 2001, 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK
Glad to be gay in SA
Gay Pride marchers
'God loves us to bits' - Gay Pride slogan
About 2,000 gay men and lesbians have taken to the streets of Johannesburg for South Africa's 12th annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade.


We represent the nation as a whole and we can be proud to be South African

Edwin Cameron
Acting Constitutional Court judge

This year's parade celebrated a notable victory for gay rights, as well as mourning all those who have died of Aids.

It came just after a court decision to allow gay couples to adopt children.

But while the emphasis now may be on celebration rather than protest, homosexuals in South Africa still face a struggle to win popular support.

Celebrate the difference

Edwin Cameron, an acting Constitutional Court judge, told his fellow marchers that they represented the whole multi-racial nation of South Africa.

"Gathered today, we have gay people of every colour and language and some are parents and some are children of gay parents," he said.

Gay Pride marchers
The parade passed famous landmarks in the city

"We represent the nation as a whole and we can be proud to be South African."

Mr Cameron had a message of defiance for those who, like himself, suffered from Aids - about one in nine South Africans.

"Do not be ashamed of living with Aids," he said.

"Those who must be ashamed are those who try and stigmatise those of us with the virus."

Without giving names, he also rounded on "people who seem to ignore (the) epidemic".

President Thabo Mbeki has questioned the link between HIV and Aids in the past.

Recognition

Beyond Saturday's sequins and pink carnival floats, the South African gay community still faces widespread hostility.

Some South African gays afraid of being identified wore brown paper bags over their heads at the first march in 1990, when apartheid was still in force, the BBC's Barnaby Philips reports.

Gay Pride 2001 Johannesburg
Some stayed away, saying the route chosen exposed marchers to dangerous traffic

Gay rights are now enshrined in the constitution and activists are confident that the court ruling on adoption will be confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

"But gay couples in South Africa do not yet have the right to marry, and despite the country's liberal constitution, they encounter prejudice and hostility," the correspondent notes.

"Homosexuality is not accepted within the majority black population."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Suzanne du Toit
"There's no real difference except kids in homosexual families tend to be more tolerant"
See also:

31 Jan 99 | Africa
Gay rights win in South Africa
23 Oct 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
Fighting for gay rights in Zimbabwe
03 Nov 99 | Africa
Gay doctor flees Uganda
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