Wits Pride is an annual event that forms part of the University of the Witwatersrand's calendar, led by the student society Activate Wits. It specifically focuses on creating a non-heterosexist, non-cissexist, non-homophobic and non-transphobic university environment. The Wits Transformation and Employment Equity office was the custodian of Wits Pride before 2019 and continues to offer support to the student leaders who run Wits Pride. Some of the work on previous Wits Pride events are showcased for 2017 and 2018 on this website.
LGBTIAQ+ Pride originates from the period of the Stonewall riots in the USA. The riots followed a series of attacks and raids in the LGBTIAQ+ community in social gathering places. One particular raid sparked the movement. This raid was on the Stonewall Inn in 1969. The riots continued and resulted in an annual movement called Pride. This was one time when the LGBTIAQ+ community could come out and celebrate their diversity in their numbers. Pride has taken many forms since.
In South Africa, the first Joburg Pride (Johannesburg LGBTIAQ+ Pride) stemmed from activists standing up in their respective communities, demanding many rights, among those, the right to express their sexual and gender diversity freely. In 1990 protestors gathered and marched in the streets of JHB where they wore paper bags and masks to conceal their identities in order to protect themselves. On the forefront of leading hundreds into a new era in South African LGBTIAQ+ identified people were activists Bev Ditsie and Simon Nkoli who are well known because of their contributions to the struggle for freedoms in sexual and gender diversity.
Active work is carried out to address the needs of the Wits LGBTIAQ+ community that is a result of systemic oppression and inequality. The Wits Pride initiative aims to counter homophobia and transphobia, foster integration of all members of society, and in so doing, ensure the dignity of the Wits LGBTIAQ+ community. Through its Anti-Discrimination Policy, the University undertook a firm stance on discrimination against LGBTIAQ+ people and clearly set out the disciplinary procedures against those guilty of such behaviour. The Transformation and Employment Equity Office and LGBTIAQ+ organisations on campus and beyond work to foster a culture that moves beyond tolerance toward respect for all forms of difference. It is the responsibility of the entire Wits community to report incidents of discrimination. The Transformation and Employment Equity Office as custodians of the Wits Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advocacy Programmes work to foster such a culture and to deal with the psycho-social effects of homophobia and transphobia.
The 2010 Anti-Homophobia Joint Statement recognised that all constituencies of the university have an interest in promoting harmony and respect for people of all sexual orientations. Similarly, the 2016 Position Statement on Gender Diversity asserted institutional respect for people beyond their genders. The University further committed to not entrenching ‘straight’ or normative sexualities or cisnormative gender identities, which have historically led to the marginalisation of LGBTIAQ+ people. It is for the aforementioned reasons that Wits keeps to the promises made and collaborates with Activate Wits - the custodians of Wits Pride for transformation on campus.