“It’s not over until we’re equal”

Allies and members of the LGBTIAQ+ community show their pride outside Great Hall in preparation for Wits Pride 2017.

WITS PRIDE is a week-long annual initiative which aims to raise awareness on LGBTIAQ+ identities while celebrating the diversity within the community and beyond. Wits Pride will take place across all four campuses from August 21 to 26.

The theme for this year’s pride is #OppressionDenied. According to Tish Lumos, programme coordinator for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advocacy, #OppressionDenied is a deliberate call to those who are in support of the LGBTIAQ+ community. It calls people to take a stand and reclaim spaces which will play a role in ending generations of homophobia and transphobia.

Lumos said that ending homophobia and transphobia starts with individuals “coming out and saying I will not be part of a space that pretends that LGBTIAQ+ people don’t exist”. It is only people who are supportive that can change spaces, according to Lumos.

Sofia Kouridi, a third year student who is part of the LGBTIAQ+ community, said that Wits Pride is important because it is a safe space where one is able to connect with like-minded people.

According to Kouridi, Pride allows members of the LGBTIAQ+ community to reflect on a challenging past where they were once marginalised and reflect on the work that still needs to be done to allow equality.

“There are still laws around which make it hard for us to adopt children and prejudice in the work space which prevent us from equal job opportunities,” she said. Apart from this, being a woman in the LGBTIAQ+ also has its own challenges, according to Kouridi.

Queer women fall victim to harassment and are questioned about personal details in relationships, which heterosexual couples aren’t subjected to, according to Kouridi.

“It would be nice to be greeted with a smile instead of how do two women have sex,” she said.

Despite the challenges, Kouridi says she is proud to be a woman because everything that women represent is strength.

“We are not weak, we’re still managing oppression every day.” All women have come a long way according to Kouridi, “but it’s not over yet until we’re equal”.

Israel independence celebrated while Palestinian supporters protest

Camels, jumping castles and free falafels were all part of the unusual 66th Israel Independence Day celebrations at Wits yesterday.

But while some Witsies crossed the library lawns on the back of a camel, the Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) held a film screening to protest the celebrations.

The film based on the life of “terrorist” fighter Leila Khaled was used as a means of showing the desperation of the Palestinian people who are fighting for their independence.

While the film was being screened, some members of the Wits PSC protested on the library lawns alongside the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJUS) who celebrated Israel’s independence.

Several protesters said Israel had blood on its hands because the state was created “through the blood of Palestinians.”

Members of the Wits PSC insisted that while the film focused on violent means of protest, the PSC itself believed in a non-violent approach to the dispute between the two nations. Aaliyah Mohammed, a member of the PSC, says the committee fights by calling for sanctions and boycotts on Israeli academic, cultural and sport activities.

Another committee member, Muhammed Ismail Bulbulia added: “Until the very end, I would fight for what I believe in provided I’m justified in fighting for it.”

Both the protest and the celebrations were conducted next to each other but no incidents were reported.