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The first pan-African virtual Pride event will take place this Friday. It is aimed at bringing together LGBT+ Africans to share their stories of challenge and success from a continent where they are often criminalised and persecuted, according to the event’s organiser. 

Broadcasting live on social media channels YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, Pride Afrique 2020 features speakers including Botswana’s former President Festus Mogae and John Amaechi, the first former NBA player to come out. 

Pride Afrique 2020 according to Reuters Foundation is organized by  Kehinde Bademosi, a gay Nigerian social innovator who was forced to move to the United States after homophobic threats to his life at home feels the pandemic provides a  perfect opportunity to bring the issue to the front burner. 

“More people are online due to the coronavirus and so we thought it was a good time to reach out virtually to the LGBTQI people living in Africa,” Bademosi, 46, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the United States. 

“We are doing this because right now in Africa, many countries are criminalising LGBTQI people and we want to send a strong message to them that they are not alone and show them that there is a community where they belong.” 

African countries have some of the world’s most prohibitive laws governing homosexuality. Gay sex is a crime across most of the continent, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death. 

Gay rights groups say the laws promote intolerance and discrimination in housing, education, healthcare and the workplace as well as hate crimes such as blackmail, and most victims are too scared to go to the police for help. 

The three-day event, which will be broadcast live for two hours daily, will feature LGBT+ speakers and advocates from Tunisia in the north to Mozambique in the south, as well as from the diaspora.

According to  Bademosi, who is director of social innovation and design at Baltimore City Health Department, “Visibility is very important. We are all on different journeys, but at the end of the event, I hope people will feel more empowered by listening to other people’s stories,” he said. 

“We are not forcing people out of the closet, but we want them to know that they are not alone and if they need support, they have the universe of people out there to help them.”