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Africa’s first ever LGBTI games is happening this weekend

Africa’s first ever LGBTI games is happening this weekend

a group of people standing together smiling and holding rainbow flags, some have their hands in the air, one is wearing a sports top reading south africa

It took three years to turn from an idea into reality, but this weekend the first ever LGBTI AfroGames are happening in Durban, South Africa.

Hlengiwe Buthelezi wanted to bring a Gay Games style event to Africa to help promote LGBTI rights across the continent.

‘We’re using the games in uniting people for inclusivity and use them to break the stigma of homophobia because most African countries have not decriminalised homosexuality,’ she told Gay Star News.

‘So what we wanted to do was to spread education through the sports and the arts.’

Buthelezi herself has competed in five Gay Games and was this year nominated for the board of the Federation of Gay Games (FGG). The FGG is the governing body of the Gay Games.

She’s excited but nervous ahead of this weekend’s games.

‘We’re just waiting anxiously to see attendance, but we’re confident it’s going to go well.’

The challenge of finding LGBTI athletes from homophobic countries

Financial restrictions means the inaugural games will only host five sports – netball, soccer, rugby, athletics and squash. But that’s not the only issue keeping the AfroGames smaller than other LGBTI sporting events.

Many of the athletes eligible to participate live in countries where their identities are criminalized and they face jail, or even death in some parts of the continent.

Buthelezi and her AfroGames deupty chairperson, Shaun Kruger, explained the logistical challenges of even communicating with athletes in other countries.

‘It’s hard to advertise the games because homosexuality is criminalized in so many places,’ she said.

‘But even the communications was hard. When were speaking to the Ugandans, we had to hide and had to change different numbers and emails, because if the government realises you’re an activist is starts to tap your number.

‘Keeping in contact was difficult.’

Kruger added: ‘It’s really been a mission, definitely.’

But those countries will still have representation this weekend. South Africa is home to many African refugees – many of which are LGBTI – and they will represent their home countries.

‘We have lots of immigrants from other countries, so we’re going to have a presentation of their countries,’ Buthelezi said.

‘They’re going to be at the opening ceremony with the flag of their countries.’

An extravagant show

The AfroGames managed to get up and running through a grassroots fundraising campaign and small donations from corporate sponsors.

But that will not stop the team from putting on a fabulous opening ceremony. There will be even more reason to celebrate as the South African National Assembly this week voted in favor of ending discrimination against same-sex couples entering into civil unions.

‘It’s going to extravagant,’ Buthelezi said.

‘We’re going to make it very colorful.’

After the sports wrap up on the weekend, the AfroGams will host a symposium on the decolonization of LGBTI rights in Africa to coincide with International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

‘First we exercise our bodies on the Saturday and Sunday and on Monday we exercise our minds,’ Kruger said.

As for Buthelezi, she can barely contain her pride.

‘We’re really excited, we know it could get better, but we’re treating it as a very good start,’ she said.

‘We’re going to push for more rights for LGBTI people in Africa.’

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