Mr Gay World's first black African finalists may help fight anti-gay laws across the continent
Mr Gay World's first black African finalists will send out a 'powerful message of hope', say organizers.
Robel Gizaw Hailu from Ethiopia, Wendelinus Hamutenya from Namibia, Lance Weyer from South Africa and Taurai Zhanje from Zimbabwe, will compete in the global male beauty pageant in Johannesburg, from 4 to 8 April.
Homosexuality is illegal in 38 African countries, with Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria allowing for the death penalty.
Mr Gay World's Africa director Coenie Kukkuk has hailed the news as a major development.
'It's the first time that black Africans will participate, which sends out a powerful message of hope to LGBTI people in Africa,' he said.
'A message that there are role models and that one can live as a successful and open LGBTI person.'
Hamutenya was the first ever Mr Gay Namibia, but in December last year he was attacked with a glass bottle after being followed by two men while on his way home.
Kukkuk added that it is significant an Ethiopian delegate is participating.
He said: 'The capital city Addis Ababa is the seat of the African Union, so it sends a strong political message.'
He added that other African delegates might be considered for the contest.
He said: 'Only those countries that have national competitions which are licensed to Mr Gay World are invited to participate. Due to space and logistics there is a quota for every continent and the four spaces allocated to Africa are now filled.
'However, should any other continent not fill its quota then applications for extra delegates will be considered.'
South Africa has won the Mr Gay World title twice, in 2010 and 2011.