Hello Africa! The Mr. Gay World pageant comes to the Motherland

by Hauwa Gambo
While Nigeria ponders the existential question of whether or not gays should be allowed to walk the streets, the Mr. Gay World pageant debuts on African soil—via South Africa. It featured the first black African contestants and held at the Lyric Theatre, Gold Reef City on Sunday.
But it didn’t come without controversy. Mr Gay Ethiopia was promptly disowned by his father, and Mr Gay Zimbabwe had to withdraw after government agents reportedly began to harass his mother. Not surprising when you consider that President Robert Mugabe has described gay people as, “Worse than pigs and dogs.”
Wendelinus Hamutenya, the Namibian contestant, aged 25, also had tales of woe to share in an interview on the UK Guardian. He came out as gay when he was 16, and his father called the police and sent him to hospital for psychiatric treatment. He was beaten and hospitalised by two men after winning the Mr Gay Namibia contest last year. He is now reconciled with his family, who accompanied him to the airport when he left Namibia for the competition in Johannesburg, but he continues to hope that his country will be the second in Africa to recognise the rights of gay people.
South Africa, however, has consistently been progressive on the controversial subject, getting praise for breaking from the African majority at the United Nations to condemn homophobia. Teboho Maitse, who is acting chairman of the country’s Commission for Gender Equality told AP that when she travels, people tell her: “‘You South Africans, you don’t behave like Africans’.”
But it’s not just in the continent that dust has been raised, of course. According to the UK Guardian, China’s representation was unable to participate because of anti-gay pressure in his country. Representation was also thin from Asia, eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Mr Gay World started in Canada in 2009. According to the organisers, “it seeks to fight the discrimination and stigma faced by the gay community in many countries today.  Mr. Gay World empowers and raises the visibility of optimistic gay men in a constructive dialogue with our fellow citizens.”
This year Andreas Derleth, a 32-year-old German living in New Zealand, took the crown, with South Africa’s Lance Weyer first runner-up. Derleth will receive “the Sterling Silver Mr. Gay World Cup, Mr. Gay World 2012 Sash, Approximate US$25,000 travel allowance to visit the five continents during his term as Mr. Gay World 2012.  Club Travel Cape Quarter will provide the title-holder a trip for two from the title-holder’s home country back to South Africa for a one week holiday including round trip economy airfare and hotel.  The winner will also receive a one year supply of Bone Wear swimwear and underwear, Custom jewellery from designer Chris Winspear, MichaelGamePlan cosmetics, Spartacus Travel Guide, Clothes from Old Favourite, Tuition for correspondent study from College South Africa, Four-Night stay at the Taj hotel in Cape Town immediately following the Mr. Gay World 2012 Grand Finale, plus a 8 Nights Namibia Highlights Tour – Dunes/Desert & Wildlife – Guided Safari incl. Accommodation and meals sponsored by Namibia JJ Tours.” 
Homosexuality is illegal in 37 African countries, with the death penalty applicable in countries including Mauritania, Somalia and Sudan.South Africa is the only country on the continent to legalise gay marriage.

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