Advocating for the acceptance and legal rights of the LGBTQ community in Eswatini
By Dumisani Dube
Melusi Simelane is the Founding Director, Eswatini Sexual & Gender Minorities Communications Consultant, Southern Africa Litigation Centre. Before anything else he is a humanist who believes in human rights for all. Simelane grew up in the Southern town of Eswatini called Nhlangano and moved to his paternal grandparents in Mankanyane when his parents passed on.
In Eswatini the queer community experience passive homophobia and passive prejudice. Even with no arrests being made, under the common law of sodomy the law makers still refuse the queer community their rights and freedom. Melusi says the only way to enjoy your success in the country as a queer person is to remain in the closet, which he is also says it’s not freedom.
The understanding and realisation of the pain the queer community face on a daily basis inspired Melusi to start and organisation the deals with the needs of the LGBTIQA+ community. It was also because of his experience when he approached people he trusted after he was raped at the age of 16, the people made a joke out of his horrific situation. This taught him that it wasn’t easy for a queer person to be strong and speak their truth because of the prejudice that exists. “All of this culminated into me starting something that works for anybody and also the lack of such an organisation in the country that particularly focuses on the rights of LGBTI persons in the country.” says Simelane. Eswatini Sexual & Gender Minorities was born.
Eswatini Sexual & Gender Minorities, the country’s first membership-based LGBTQ organisation, aims to increase awareness of the social and systematic exclusion of LGBTQ citizens across the Southern Africa region. The organisation’s approach is guided by the belief that long-term sustainable change comes through intersectional movement-building and fostering an environment of mutual respect. Melusi’s work aims to position LGBTQ rights as a central part of broader justice and human rights movements in Eswatini and across Southern Africa.
Melusi continues his work, advocating for the acceptance and legal rights of the LGBTQ community in Eswatini and building intersectional human rights coalitions to empower young leaders across Southern Africa. He has challenged power; his approach being guided by the belief that change cannot be achieved without mutual respect and consultation. He is one of the most recognisable activists in Eswatini.