First black African contestants for Mr Gay World
This year's Mr Gay World contest will be the first in which black Africans are part of the finalists.
In a continent where at least 33 states have outlawed homosexuality and where it's punishable by death in three (Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria), this may represent a glimmer of hope for homosexuals in Africa.
Mr Gay World's Africa director Coenie Kukkuk is quoted by Mambaonline.com as saying: "It's a major development. It's the first time that black Africans will participate, which sends out a powerful message of hope to LGBTI people in Africa.
"A message that there are role models and that one can live as a successful and open LGBTI person."
There will be four contestants representing the continent, the highest number in the pageant's history. The contestants are Robel Gizaw Hailu (Ethiopia), Wendelinus Hamutenya (Namibia), Taurai Zhanje (Zimbabwe) and Lance Weyer (South Africa).
Homosexuality is illegal in Ethiopia, Namibia and Zimbabwe, although the law is not enforced in all countries. Hamutenya, however, was physically assaulted after winning the Mr Gay Namibia contest.
About Gizaw Hailu's participation, Kukkuk says to Mambaonline.com: "It's significant that an Ethiopian delegate is participating. The capital city Addis Ababa is the seat of the African Union, so it sends a strong political message."
Kukkuk added that there could still be more African delegates considered for the contest.
"Only those countries that have national competitions which are licensed to Mr Gay World are invited to participate. Due to space and logistics there is a quota for every continent and the four spaces allocated to Africa are now filled," explained Kukkuk.
"However, should any other continent not fill its quota then applications for extra delegates will be considered."
South Africa has previously won the Mr Gay World title twice: in 2010 and in 2011.
The 2012 Mr Gay World competition will be held in Johannesburg from 4 to 8 April.
Read more on MambaOnline.