Mandela’s prison island to host gay marriage

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This year’s St Valentine’s Day mass marriage ceremony on Cape Town’s historic Robben Island will be the first in the event’s history to accommodate a same-sex couple.

Since the initiative’s inauguration in 2000, the Robben Island Museum has played cupid to over 120 couples wishing to tie the knot on February 14th.

Marriage officers will wed a same-sex couple for the first time this year.

South Africa’s Civil Union Act 2006 granted gay and lesbian couples the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples.

Robben Island is a former prison turned World Heritage Site following South Africa’s liberation from apartheid rule in 1994.

A spokesman for South Africa’s department of Home Affairs told that the island was a fitting place to cherish the values of love and friendship.

“We wanted to promote and symbolise the spirit of Robben Island and identified Valentine’s Day as a very opportune moment to do that,” he said.

“Robben Island is a place of humanity, peace and equality.

“It is a place of hope,” he added.

The island lies 12 kilometres south of Cape Town. The city is a vibrant tourist destination favoured by the world’s gay community.

For nearly 400 years Robben Island was a place of oppression and brutality, no more so during the apartheid years when political opponents to racial segregation, most notably Nelson Mandela, were banished to exile and isolation.

Now a treasured World Heritage Site, the island has come to symbolise freedom and liberation.

The Civil Union Act came into effect on 30 November 2006.

The Act makes South Africa the fourteenth country in the world and the first in Africa to bestow same-sex couples with the legal protection that heterosexual couples benefit from.

The Acting Director-General of Home Affairs, Mr Joel Chavalala welcomed the legislation.

“We are particularly excited to be at the front of this historic development in our country,” he said.