Taurai Zhanje, who last week was verbally attacked by many from his local community, pulled out of the contest citing personal reasons.
His decision comes after it was revealed that in December last year the first-ever Mr. Gay Namibia, one Hamutenya, was assaulted by men who demanded his winnings soon after he was crowned.
Zhanje would not elaborate what he meant by ‘personal reasons.’
The competition says it aims “to advance national and international gay rights through education and public performance”.
Zhanje’s intentions had been celebrated by many organisations in the gay community. The Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe had issued a statement following Zhanje’s announcement:
GALZ wishes to congratulate Taurai Zhanje on entering the Mr Gay world Pageant to be held in Johannesburg South Africa .Being one of only four African contestants and the first from Zimbabwe is a historical feat that we are extremely proud of. Taurai naturally becomes our ambassador and role model for the Zimbabwean Gay Community. With the intense climate of homophobia existing in Zimbabwe and the restrictive legislation that makes it difficult for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender people to be open about their sexuality and to use public space in safety, Taurai has exhibited immense courage and boldness by entering the Mr. Gay World contest.
The “Mr Gay World” Director for Africa, Coenie Kukkuk said: “We are sad to loose Taurai, but in Africa, the personal sacrifice for gay and human rights is sometimes too much to expect from people. Taurai already made a very brave stand against the oppression of the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and intersex persons and we have to respect his decision. We wish him and his family only the best for the future.”
Kukkuk said that they will explore all avenues to find another country from Africa to take Zimbabwe’s place, but that the general political climate in Africa is not conducive to LGBTI rights being recognised and that it will be very difficult to do so.
Recently, at an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has urged African leaders to respect gay rights.
The Mr Gay World competition is defined as an annual contest for gay men, seeking to establish ambassadors for LGBT and human rights, with winners of national contests competing as delegates in a variety of categories. It is not a beauty contest and there is no age limit. This competition is the most publicized gay contest in the world and unashamedly uses the attention it garners to focus attention on the plight of LGBTI people worldwide, with the focus in 2012 being on African LGBTIs specifically. The delegate chosen to represent his peers on a global stage will not only have the inner beauty of confidence, self assurance, charisma and natural leadership abilities but he will also take care in his outward appearance. He will also have knowledge of LGBTI general history and recent news.
GALZ has pleaded with Zimbabweans to embrace reality and common rights of those who are gay.
A statement read:
“As GALZ we do not expect every individual Zimbabwean to embrace gay rights or the issue of homosexuality. But we do expect Zimbabweans to understand and promote the fundamental, inalienable and indivisible nature of human rights, including non-discrimination on the basis of race, gender, tribe, culture and sexual orientation. We Salute your bravery and hope that your participation will inspire us all to come out and celebrate our lives despite the very difficult circumstances we live in. Zimbabwe has institutionalised homophobia making it difficult for the LGBTI community to lead positive lives hence we are ecstatic about your participation as it demonstrates the resilient character Zimbabweans generally exhibit in overcoming challenges. We wish you all the best and hope that you will win the ultimate title. The Zimbabwean LGBTI Community is rallying behind you.”
The 2012 Mr. Gay World competition will be held in Johannesburg from 4 to 8 April.