People all around the world will have woken up today, to heartfelt and near universal tributes to the late Nelson Mandela: Anti-apartheid freedom fighter, leader of South Africa’s transition to democracy, and global icon for freedom, equality and hope for a world without hatred, in any form.
Artwork by Peter Max (2001), Wikipaintings, Source.
A towering figure of the 20th and 21st Centuries, Mandela’s life is sure to be celebrated by generations of people, everywhere, who care about human rights, democracy and anti-imperialist struggle.
We also remember him, today, for his courageous steps in supporting and spearheading the fight for LGBT rights in South Africa and, therefore, throughout the wider continent and the world.
Speaking on gay rights, Mandela said: “I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom… Just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.”
When South Africa approved a new constitution in 1997, drafted by Mandela, it was one of the most liberal in the world. All supporters of universal Human Rights celebrated a clause in the constitution that made discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal.
Various rulings by South Africa’s Constitutional Court, including one allowing gay couples to adopt children, have since been added.
Today, South Africa is torn between its fidelity to the values that emerged out of the war against apartheid, and pressures from other African States, where sexual and gender minorities serve as scapegoats for many undemocratic regimes. At the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, South Africa swings between leadership and procrastination in the fight for the recognition of sexual and gender minorities in the international Human Rights instruments.
Let us all work for the spirit of Mandela to win the fight.
More than ever, showing your support to Mandela’s memory is not an act to celebrate the past hero, but an act to support his legacy for many more heroes to emerge from his soul.