Stop denying Miss SA freedom of choice
THE Miss Universe pageant was not the subject of a boycott when it was held in apartheid South Africa. In fact, the oft-referred to event never occurred, and was never scheduled.
Our country does not appear as a location on the list of Miss Universe pageants held every year since 1952 – except for a sole 1996 event which was mooted for Johannesburg but then shifted to the US.
The organisers behind the campaign to remove Miss South Africa from the competition being held in Israel this year would like us to believe that similar actions were taken against the self-same beauty pageant held in apartheid South Africa. It is only the 1996 Miss Universe event which was scheduled to be held in the country, two years after the first democratic elections, but which was later moved.
The blatant denial of the rights of Lalela Mswane, a black woman, to decide her fate for herself, especially when it comes to political issues, is both patronising and racist. In a televised interview, Palestine4africa’s Bram Hanekom appears to upbraid Mswane’s decision to attend, insisting that he, as a white male, should decide her future.
He claims that since boycotts were used to good measure as one of the many tools of the anti-apartheid movement, similar strategies will be equally effective in “gaining rights for Palestinians”. He appears oblivious to the fact that if such an event had been held in SA during apartheid, no black contestants would have been allowed to attend.
The first official Miss SA pageant held in 1956 was only open to “white” (Caucasian) females and the winner sent to London for the Miss World pageant.
That year, Norma Vorster was crowned Miss SA. Two years later, Penny Coelen was crowned and would later go on to win Miss World. It was not until 1977 that all races were allowed to compete in the Miss SA competition. Prior to that, people of colour competed in the Miss Africa South pageant, renamed Miss Black South Africa, in 1977.
It is unclear what the goals of the Bds-affiliated campaign are – effectively campaigning to end women’s rights in Israel, or merely seeking to maintain the status quo vis-à-vis LGTBIQ rights in the region, a situation in which gay rights are restricted in most Arab states and in some cases subject to the death penalty. Apartheid was a policy separating persons according to pseudo-scientific race classification, not national or religious affiliation, and homosexuality was outlawed.
Amnesty International (AI) says women in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority still face discrimination and violence, including GBV killings.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in the “State of Palestine” face legal challenges and discrimination.
An AI 2020 report on Palestine states: “… the Penal Code in Gaza criminalises (male) consensual samesex sexual activity and makes it punishable by up to 10 years in jail”. In 2019, the Palestinian Authority police banned the activities of queer and feminist rights body Al Qaws and demanded residents report “suspicious” activities.
Injustice cannot be overcome by injustice.
DAVID ROBERT LEWIS I Cape Town