Moral rights… morality… money money money. Where money is concerned morality can fly out the window faster than you can cay cock Rubenstein! The President, or is she the Prime Minister, I forget, of Malawi, in the face of dwindling foreign aid is rescinding the ban on homosexuality. Yes, folks, damn it all I’m back there yet again but I can’t help the news headlines blazing away, now can I? While the money flows homosexuality is bad bad bad but when the money stops because of human rights then it’s okay to be gay. The hypocrisy I suppose is inevitable.
South Africa on the other hand is not only the one sensible and liberal country in Africa where homosexuality is concerned but evidently is actively encouraging it. Why? Money money money, the power of the pink pound, the pink dollar, the pink whatever.
There is arguably no worse place in the world to be gay than Africa. Today more than two-thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing homosexual acts and across the continent the imprisonment, murder and abuse of gays has become part of the fabric of society. So to many Africans the Rainbow Flag, which has emerged as one of the most powerful and recognisable 21st Century symbols of gay rights, is an unknown quantity. ‘But Cape Town is hoping to usurp Rio, Toronto and Tel Aviv to become the world's favourite gay destination and win a big slice of the "pink tourism" market which is worth an estimated $80bn ($50bn) worldwide.’ Tel Aviv? Who would have thought it? The ancient prophets must be turning in their graves. Does no one these days read Leviticus? Gay men from all over Africa face persecution, violence and even death in their home countries but in Cape Town, if only on holiday, they can be free”South Africa has the continent's only openly gay hotel, Cape Town's Amsterdam House, founded in 1998, and usually fully booked. The hotel's manager, Laurens Botha, (po po po as a Greek would say, what does the Dutch Reformed Church think of that for goodness sake?) says other businesses are benefiting from the regular influx of gay visitors. Last year, in a survey carried out by the publication ‘Out There’, North American travellers ranked South Africa as the third "most wanted" travel destination. Cape Town, where 10% of all tourists who visit the city are said to be gay, also won status as a worldwide favorite by ‘Out and About’ magazine. Last year alone an estimated 200,000 gay tourists (there can’t be that many in the world surely!) holidayed in Cape Town. South Africa's laws and constitution have helped to make all this possible. It was the first country in Africa to legalize same-sex marriage, and only the fifth in the world to do so. For those forced to stay in the closet in their home countries, South Africa is liberating. The popularity of the Rainbow Nation amongst gay travellers is thanks to liberal laws and the fact that this is the only place in Africa where you can be openly gay. You can walk on the beaches, go on safari and eat in restaurants as gay partners without raising eyebrows let alone anything more hazardous to health.
Businesses across the country are also becoming more aware of the value of the pink Rand. This year the United Nations World Tourism Organization singled out South Africa in its Global Report on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) tourism. It said progressive attitudes in South Africa as well as Argentina, (Catholic!) India, Spain (Catholic!) and Mexico (Catholic!) had attracted the gay market in droves.
However all is not sweetness and light. Prejudice remains. Lesbians in South Africa have experienced shocking violence such as “corrective rape.”
Fanney Tismong, an acclaimed Johannesburg based film-maker who specialises in gay issues and township life, says huge strides have been achieved in South Africa but he agrees deep prejudices still remain in many parts of the country and many gays in the townships live in fear of sexual assault and murder. More than 30 women have been killed in South Africa in the past two years because of their sexuality."We are making progress and we stand out alone in this regard in Africa, but we are not quite at the end of the rainbow yet".