Swaziland: The LGBT community celebrates Pride in Eswatini

A woman in traditional dress waving flags, people facing away from the camera wearing t-shirts that say their job, two women in rainbow flags speaking on a stage. Hundreds of LGBTQI+ people gathered to celebrate Pride in Eswatini, formerly called Swaziland, where it's still illegal to be gay.

Many more people than usual were “out and proud” this year (Images: Rock of Hope/Eswatini Sexual & Gender Minorities)

Hundreds bravely came together to celebrate Pride despite living in a country that has banned their sexuality.

Being gay has been illegal in the Kingdom of Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, since the British colonized the African nation in the 18th century.

Activist Mangaliso Mndzebele told that the country, one of three monarchies remaining on the continent, has historically viewed LGBTQ+ people as “satanic”.

Former Prime Minister Maphevu Dlamini said in 2018: “Being gay is an anomaly and a disease.”

Most LGBTQ+ people in Eswatini are still living in hiding, local activists said.

Common law in Britain criminalizes sodomy between two men, and although it makes no reference to women, it is considered a blanket ban on same-sex relationships.

The law was not enforced by police or courts for decades, but LGBTQ+ communities say they are still “subject to human rights abuses” in their daily lives.

This is because the community fears they will lose their jobs, be separated from loved ones and experience prejudice.

Despite all of this, more than 300 people gathered last Saturday to celebrate who they are.

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A man performing

This year is the South African country’s fifth Pride celebration (Image: Rock of Hope)

People facing away from the camera, their t-shirts denoting their profession.

LGBTQ+ people in Eswatini are often afraid of losing their jobs because they are (Image: Rock of Hope)

“It brings hope. Every time we have a Pride event, it brings hope,” said one of the Pride organizers, Sisanda Mavimbela.

Sisanda explained that in previous years, when Pride was not constrained by the Covid-19 pandemic, crowds grew larger at night because people only felt safe when their identities were hidden in the dark.

But this year, many more people were “exuberant and proud” during the day, Sisanda said.

Maxwell Gumbi attended Pride for the first time last weekend and enjoyed it so much he now thinks it “should be held twice a year”.

He said the day made him “proud to stand up for his rights”.

Two women in rainbow flags speak on a stage.

This year, compared to previous years, a large number of people were “out and proud” (Image: Rock of Hope)

A woman in traditional dress waving flags.

Sisanda said it’s important for LGBTQ+ people to be able to party in their own country (Image: Eswatini Sexual & Gender Minorities)

A crowd at a Pride field in Eswatini.

More than 300 people attended Eswatini’s 2022 Pride event (Image: Rock of Hope)

Eswatini had its first-ever Pride in 2018, when international pressure helped ensure the community received permission and protection to march through the streets.

But that hasn’t happened since, leaving charities and activists to plan and fund all Pride events since then.

Sisanda’s organization Eswatini Sexual & Gender Minorities joined forces with seven other NGOs this year to create a “safe space” for LGBTQ+ people.

They rented a country club in the town of Manzini, paid for private security, organized entertainment, and invited their business and government allies to show their support.

According to reports, the Ministry of Health was the only government agency there. has reached out to Eswatini Parliament for comment.

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For more stories like this, Visit our news page. celebrates 50 years of pride

This year we are celebrating 50 years of Pride so it only seems fitting that goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support with a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raise awareness for the community this Pride month.

And we also have some big names on board to help us. From a list of famous guest editors taking over the site for a week, including Rob Rinder, Nicholas Adams, Peter Tatchel, Kimberly Hart Simpson, John White, Anna Richardson and Dr Ranjas well as the like Sir Ian McKellen and drag race stars the vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi offer their insights.

During Pride Month, which runs from June 1st to June 30th, will also support Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in times of conflict, and the youth homeless charity AKT. To learn more about their work and what you can do to support them, click here.

To the‘s latest Pride coverage, click here. Swaziland: The LGBT community celebrates Pride in Eswatini

Justin Scacco

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