Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was jailed for 18 years, celebrates Pride for first time

History was made as Robben Island, South Africa celebrated Pride for the first time.

On 25 May, the rainbow flag of the LGBTQ+ community flew high at Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.

The event was organised by The Other Foundation, an organisation committed to protecting and advancing the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in South Africa.

The Foundation held its biannual ‘kopano’, a Sotho term that means to discuss important issues, on the island, which is 3.3km long and lies north of Cape Town.

Siphuxolo Mazwi of the Robben Island Museum was filled with excitement, telling Mambo Online: “The queer community is welcome on Robben Island.”

She stated her hope that Pride would become an annual event on the island.

Neville Gabrielle, CEO of The Other Foundation said: “We believe that holding this year’s kopano in Cape Town in partnership with Robben Island Museum, which is a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, will further advance the struggle for the freedom, equality, recognition of human dignity, and social inclusion of LGBTI people.”

Nelson Mandela was sentenced to prison on Robben Island for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. (Photo by Micheline Pelletier/Sygma via Getty Images)

The revolutionary, who served as South Africa’s first president after the fall of apartheid, also helped push for equality for LGBTQ+ South Africans

The constitution he ushered in included protections against discrimination due to sexual orientation.

This laid the foundation for further LGBTQ+ rights created after Mandela’s presidency, including same-sex marriage and the right of queer people to serve openly in the military.

After his death in 2013, Human Rights Campaign said of Mandela: “He appointed an openly-gay judge to South Africa’s High Court of Appeal and during his presidency, South Africa became the first nation in the world to constitutionally prohibit sexual orientation-based discrimination.

“Mandela will be remembered for his social justice activism and commitment to equality for all people.”

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