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Safety fears for Mr Gay World’s first black Africans

Safety fears for Mr Gay World’s first black Africans

The Mr Gay World contestant from Ethiopia may not be able to return to his country after receiving death threats.

The global male beauty pageant, which is this year held in Johannesburg, from 4 to 8 April, was last week celebrating after getting its first black African finalists.

However, the competition was shaken at the weekend when Zimbabwe's Taurai Zhanje pulled out due to 'some very serious considerations', which Mr Gay World's Africa director, Coenie Kukkuk, hints are linked to the country's political situation in the run up to a general election.

And it now looks likely Mr Gay Ethiopia, Robel Gizaw Hailu, will not be returning to his native country after the contest finishes, Kukkuk revealed to Gay Star News.

But Hailu is still competing in the contest, along with other black African finalists Wendelinus Hamutenya from Namibia and Lance Weyer from South Africa.

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 told GSN he is sad about recent developments, but says unfortunately the persecution of LGBT people in Africa is still the norm.

'The Zimbabwean delegate had to withdraw, the Namibian delegate was assaulted and the Ethiopian one is getting death threats,' he said.

'I do not think LGBTI people in the West really have an idea what black LGBTI Africans have to deal with on a daily basis. That is why most of them still are, and will remain, closeted.'

South Africa has won the Mr Gay World title twice, in 2010 and 2011.

However, Kukkuk says despite South Africa boasting one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, the country's political will is still not strong enough to really assist black LGBT citizens.

He said: 'In the big cities in South Africa and in the predominantly upmarket or predominantly white areas, it is tolerated and even accepted, but sadly in the black rural areas it is still a taboo. One that you can pay for with your life.'

Kukkuk added there might be a candidate from Ghana to take Zimbabwe's place, but they are not sure yet.

Homosexuality is illegal in 38 African countries, with Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria allowing for the death penalty.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe celebrated his 88th birthday on Saturday with a tirade of homophobic abuse.

A new constitution is currently being drafted in the run-up to elections and he called for voters to reject gay rights in the charter.

Mugabe, who has ranted about homosexuality for years, has previously branded gays ‘worse than dogs’.